A student group in Middle East Technical University (METU), one of the most prominent universities of Turkey, known to be filming protests against its controversial administration assigned by the Turkish government in the shade of the emergency decree was suspended with a statement sent to their mail addresses.
The decision came months after METU students gathered at the stadium for their graduation ceremony, and chanted for the resignation of the dean, as a large number of students were marching with a banner holding a similar demand; protesting the anti-democratic dean electoral process as a result of an emergency decree banning deans elections in October 2016.
This decree allows the president to choose from three candidates offered by the Board of Higher Education. According to the decree, if the board fails to do so in two weeks, the president is allowed to appoint whoever he deems fit.
That was the case when the university’s current dean Versan Kök got his seat, which drew a rebuff and ignited protests against the administration. The media organisation formed by METU students filmed those protests and the intervention of private security guards on July’s graduation ceremony.
The organisation, who made the event public by posting a video on Youtube, was shut down on Friday by the university board. An e-mail was sent to all student organisations declaring the shut-down attributing disobedience of due regulations.
METU, located in capital city Ankara, in addition to being one of the most prominent universities of Turkey on the academic level, is also a fertile ground for student activism. METU’s graduation ceremonies for years have had a tradition of humorous and critical placards about current political developments in Turkey.
One of those placards carried by METU students on February’s graduation ceremony, displayed a caricature depicting Erdogan’s face on various animals initiated a huge debate in Turkey about freedom of speech. The cartoon, which was published in a satire magazine twelve years ago, against which Erdogan filed a lawsuit, resulted in detention of six students carrying it.
What happens in METU is a part of a wide-scale crackdown on academics and students, as part of the purge of political dissidents after the failed 15 July 2016 coup attempt.
President Erdogan has been tightening grip on the country since the coup attempt, which has taken its toll on various spheres including academia. After the failed coup some 6,000 academics were expelled from their posts, whereas more than 70,000 students are currently imprisoned, according to Ministry of Justice.