young people turn against Erdoğan

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young people turn against Erdoğan

Escalating protests over the appointment of a state-approved rector at a prestigious Istanbul university have become an unexpected catalyst for Turkey’s disillusioned and underemployed youth to vent their frustrations at President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government.

Escalating protests over the appointment of a state-approved rector at a prestigious Istanbul university have become an unexpected catalyst for Turkey’s disillusioned and underemployed youth to vent their frustrations at President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government.

Demonstrations by both staff and students erupted last month over the installation of Melih Bulu, a business figure who stood as a ruling Justice and Development party (AKP) parliamentary candidate in 2015, as rector of Boğaziçi University, arguably the most acclaimed higher education institution in the country.

The decision to appoint Bulu was denounced as undemocratic by university members, and widely interpreted as a government attempt to infiltrate one of the country’s last left-leaning institutions: Bulu is the first rector chosen from outside the university community since Turkey’s 1980 military coup.

At least 250 people in Istanbul and another 69 in Ankara have been arrested this week, the vast majority of them students, in clashes between protesters and police marking one of the biggest displays of civil unrest in Turkey since the 2013 Gezi Park movement.

Erdoğan said on Wednesday that his government would not allow the Boğaziçi protests to spiral out of control, accusing the protesters of being “terrorists” and “LGBT youth” working against Turkey’s “national and spiritual values”.

 

Behrem Evlice, a fourth-year political science student, said: “We are so angry right now, and it’s not just Boğaziçi students, it’s students and young people all over Turkey. [The state] has attacked us with the police and violence. They are smearing us with these labels when all we want is a say in how our university is run. Ultimately though there is an economic crisis in Turkey and they know they are going to lose votes … they are just trying to divide people.”

Critics say Erdoğan’s monopoly on power and the undermining of democratic norms have intensified since a failed 2016 coup, after which the presidency reserved the right to directly handpick university rectors. Over the last five years, more than a dozen universities across the country have been shut down.

Almost two decades of AKP rule have placed Turkish institutions and society on a firmly religious and socially conservative path; the new wave of protests is unlikely to move the political needle in a deeply polarised country in which state repression of peaceful protest has become the norm.

But while many people from older generations are grateful to Erdoğan for building roads and hospitals and raising living standards for the working classes, Turkey’s Generation Z has never known anything other than AKP rule, in recent years defined by political instability and economic turmoil. As such, they represent a new test for the party’s grip on power.

 

 

The Guardian

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