Protests against the appointed rector at Boğaziçi University are continuing for over a month now. During these protests, which found support both inside and outside the university, students are amongst the ones who are the most visible. As is always the case with these kinds of student protests, we are once again seeing that dichotomies are being served to us in the form of brilliant students and those who are provocative, students with headscarves and LGBTI+. And we are listening to what the students have to say: “There are not gray zones; we will continue to resist and struggle together for each and every one of us.”

İrem: Protests have been going on for over a month now. Would you please tell us what has been done so far and what do you find meaningful in all this?

Edibe: Since the moment we learned about the appointment, we began to come together on online platforms as different constituents of the university. As you all know, this is a legal but unlawful appointment which took place in the middle of the night when we were all in lockdown. The first protest which took place on 4th of January, and the activities that still continue, are the fruits of this appointment. When the administration is against autonomy and democratic values, it is not possible for us to continue producing in the previous forms as if everything is OK. Therefore, every day, different activities are being organized based on the agenda of the day; open courses, sharing of experiences, exhibitions, and forums, which I think are one of the most important parts of the resistance, are being organized. This way, we create and open up spaces where we can come together and discuss what we can do and make publicly manifest our issues since the appointment of trustee rectors is not only our internal problem, but this is also a systemic problem on a national scale. There are various types of activities, but they all have something in common: they are peaceful and clear. These activities are useful to keep the resistance alive and going; and on the other hand, they are spaces of alternative education and production for us. Our struggle is founded on a culture of collective discussion which is parallel with our demands; we produce the ideas for each step that will be taken, we discuss these ideas amongst ourselves, we vote them, and make decisions collectively. If it is necessary, we revise these systems. So, the participatory environment that the administration should have is already a functioning and evolving practice in which we engage on a daily basis.

Besides, there is a remarkable effort to provide correct information. In order to express ourselves, we produce firsthand and clear content, and we record everything on a daily basis. We have delivered our demands and recorded the violence exerted on us with the same camera. These protests are not without any memory, we know and remember the resistance against the appointment of trustee rectors in the past and we do our best for these protests not to be forgotten tomorrow. This is an extremely difficult thing to achieve in a society where the agenda changes every hour and we have to regularly clean our memories, but every oppression that is forgotten means that it will be repeated. Although they try to make us forget, we have never forgotten what has happened, and we will not forget these days.

All these aside, I think one of the most important aspects of these protests is that they constitute a space of interaction and collective thinking which is much more intense than the usual rhythm of the university. What we call university constituents are a wide range of people from various backgrounds, social milieus, and identities. However, this does not mean that in this necessary unity we have already resolved all and every difference amongst ourselves. The fact that so many people come together, and express common demands makes them to know and understand each other better, to observe each other more, and to realize that they can exist together without seeing each other as a threat and without changing themselves. I am pretty sure that this is very disturbing for those who use polarization as one of their political strategies. The deep-rooted dichotomies existing in society are juxtaposed on the ground of struggles more dramatically than they do anywhere else and these require immediate solutions. The dichotomies which are seen from the outside as “what are people wearing headscarves doing there” or “what are rainbow flags doing there” are only some of these dichotomies that got their share from this confusion. Contrary to the perception, which is created by triggering our historically existing traumas, we have a style of struggle which is not monopolized by anyone and which can be owned by anyone, and we continue to gradually create the space we opened up here with the labor and efforts of each one of us. Thanks to the growing discussion and collective participation culture that I mentioned before, we now have the tools to produce the necessary solutions. I see a union which is becoming better day by day; I do not want to call this tolerance or compromise. We imagine a space where everyone can exist as who they are without the need for negotiation, and while demanding the necessary free environment for this, we have already started to build it amongst ourselves. The fact that they are constantly cooking and bringing the same discriminating rhetoric with new excuses shows me the discomfort they feel about all this; they are trying to figure out which method will hold best by trial and error. We are faced with a mentality that is not even innovative in its polarization methods. The way we continue to stay together against these methods tells and promises a lot.

İrem: Targeting and violent attacks on protests on campus and social media have become more intense in recent weeks. How do you think this affects resistance and solidarity?

Edibe: Our demands and methods are clear and have not changed since the beginning. We call fellow university students to join and support the resistance, we need everyone. Contrary to the perception the government endeavors to create, we do not harm anyone; except for the ground of those who violate our rights. When they realize how slippery the ground they stand, their first reaction is to intensify violence. The police blockades have sieged the entire neighborhood; the police in and around the university outnumber the students; the armored vehicles are deployed on the streets – all of it must be an indicator of their fear. Likewise, lynching campaigns on social media were launched by those who benefit from or are radical fanatics of this power. On the one hand, we faced the consequences of living in a place where free media does not exist. On the other hand, we have been surrendered by the undercover police within the campus for years and now, we are besieged by the police force in and out of the campus for a month, and they have and use all kinds of opportunities to declare us “terrorist”, “pervert”, and “slanderer” no matter what we do, although one of our principles is not to litter. The most telling example of this lynching campaign by state institutions was against Şeyma who was unlawfully detained, subjected to ill-treatment, and held in custody for days.

Attempts against Şeyma and all our friends who have been detained and arrested should be countered not only individually but by everyone. We responded to them in solidarity, we said that we are witnesses to Şeyma. On my part, I am very proud of my dear friend Şeyma and all my friends. I know that they will never leave me alone on a similar occasion. Each and every friend in the resistance must feel the same way; on the night of that difficult day when our 159 friends were detained by police violence from the campus on February 1, we slept for a few hours and then gathered in the South Square and in front of the courthouse just a couple of hours later, we did not give up or dispersed. This process once again exposed the lies of the government, showing that the only thing they care about is retaining their own power and that the “desirable citizen” is constructed not on the basis of religious identity but rather on an ideological ground. In a similar vein, the trustee (rector) who shut down BÜLGBTİ+ (Boğaziçi University LGBTI+ student club) as his first operation, once again proved that the right struggles cannot be seen in isolation. We see and do not forget these, just as we waited all night long to hear from our friends, we will wait on the campuses, in front of the courthouses, in the courtrooms, in the streets and squares until we meet our other friends, and we will remember everything. There are not gray zones; we will continue to resist and struggle together for each and every one of us.

İrem: Protests have been going on for over a month now. Would you please tell us what has been done so far and what do you find meaningful in all this?

Buse: I think, the most distinctive thing about the protests from the very beginning is that they are sustainable. With dances, music, painting exhibitions, cooking halvah, we peacefully carry on our creative and harmless protests. For example, the song “Yetti” (Enough is Enough) by Gizli Özneler (Hidden Subjects) was dedicated to the solidarity of Boğaziçi University. We play this song on campus. And, after Melih Bulu said “I am a rector who listens to Metallica”, we decided to play Metallica songs on the campus. However, I heard some friends criticize our protest methods saying, “What are these protests, are we going there to dance”. But I find all these methods reasonable in terms of sustainability. Because offering people something makes things easier while trying to attract a large group. During our protests, we never target anyone, on the contrary, we have tried to speak to Melih Bulu, who fled the university fearing that someone might harm him. Actually, nothing has changed for us since day one. Neither our protesting methods not our peaceful stance has changed. We have always tried to express ourselves, especially on social media. Many of our friends participated in live broadcasts, shot videos, gave interviews, and told about our intentions in various media platforms. The main thing we are fighting for is our democratic rights. We are targeted and stigmatized, but we’ll continue this struggle.

İrem: Following BİSAK’s (Boğaziçi University Islamic Studies Club) targeting, a social media lynching campaign took place and two of our friends have been arrested. How did this incident affect the solidarity between the students? Did this change the participation and relation of students from different environments and views to the protests?

Buse: BİSAK’s targeting was the turning point of solidarity. Of course, this wave of targeting which started with BİSAK reached the highest ranks of government officials and from the ministers to the president, many officials targeted LGBTI+ students. What is interesting in all this is that the “Kaaba picture” had nothing to do with the LGBTI+ students. However, for some reason, they have become the targets all of a sudden. This picture was circulated widely in the media and LGBTI+ students were accused of mocking religious values and hate speech. However, it is blatant who is harmed this clearly demonstrates to whom hate speech belongs. In the meantime, BÜLBGTİ+ was shut down by the appointed trustee rector. So, you see, the freedom of Boğaziçi has been already shadowed. After these incidents, the solidarity grew exponentially and spread to and echoed in the whole country. And this shows that the problem is beyond the appointment of a trustee rector. This was actually the thing from the start, the appointment of a trustee rector is an indication of anti-democratization, and we were all aware of the deeper problems behind this appointment. This process which began with the targeting, this situation became all the more blatant. Solidarity spread to the whole country and we will keep our struggle going and get even stronger despite all the direct stigmatizations, slanders, detentions and arrests.

Translator: İpek Tabur

Proof-reader: Müge Karahan

For the original in Turkish / Yazının Türkçesi için


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