Erdoğan’s AKP and the conservative press are agitating against an art exhibition at Istanbul’s Bosphorus University. A poster insults Islam, they say.
Since the beginning of the year, teachers and students have been protesting against the new dean of the Bosphorus University Photo: dpa
There was great excitement in Turkish government circles and the country’s right-wing Islamic press over the weekend because students at Bosphorus University allegedly insulted Islam. Four students were provisionally arrested, two of them were put in pre-trial detention after being brought before a magistrate.
The ostensible reason for the arrests was a small art exhibition on the campus lawn, where a poster was also displayed depicting the courtyard of the Great Mosque of Mecca, with an image of the mythical Anatolian snake woman mounted in its center instead of the holy Kaaba. At one of the top corners of the painting, a small rainbow flag is blocked in to show that the LGBTI community also belongs, according to the anonymous artist.
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The actual reason for the arrests is an attempt to intimidate students who have been protesting against their new university rector Melih Bulu for weeks. Since the beginning of January, the students and most of the faculty of the prestigious university have been protesting against the fact that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has imposed a new rector on them, who is also a leading politician of the ruling AKP.
The exhibition, organized by the art faculty, was part of the protest camp on the university campus that has been maintained since early January despite massive repression. After pro-government media broke the news about an allegedly blasphemous painting, which was on the ground to boot, government officials pumped up the exhibition on the university grounds into a major scandal.
Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu announced that tough action would be taken against the "LGBTI perverts" who produce and distribute such images. The police officers he sent to the campus therefore also searched the premises of an LGBTI club at Bosphorus University.
Teachers show their backs
By contrast, there is hardly any talk of a deliberate takeover of the progressive university by the ruling AKP party, even among the opposition CHP. But within the university, opposition to Melih Bulu’s appointment continues. During his inaugural speech, the university’s professors and lecturers demonstratively turned their backs on him.
So far, not a single committee of the university could be filled, because both students and lecturers refuse to cooperate. Many students from other universities have shown solidarity with the students of Bosphorus University. The response of those in power is the same everywhere: police and repression.