Students of the Middle East Technical University (ODTU) in Ankara have pledged to boycott classes on Tuesday in protest against police violence used to break up a recent gay pride March at the university, the Evrensel daily newspaper reported on Sunday.
On Friday, Turkish police used force to break up an LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex) pride March held at the university.
Twenty-five students who gathered to celebrate the 9th pride march, which was previously banned by the university rector, were detained following a police intervention riot.
Among the detainees were LGBTI student activists Melike Balkan and Ozgur Gur, as well as an academic from the university.
Professor Mustafa Versan Kok, the ODTU rector, announced via e-mail on May 6 that the annual May 10 pride march was banned due to the all-embracing ban by the city’s governor enacted in 2017.
Police used teargas and rubber bullets to disperse the marchers.
One student was shot in the face during the police intervention.
Following the event, a number of ODTU students decided to boycott classes on upcoming Tuesday in protest of the police violence used at the campus.
The students also wanted to protest against the university’s rector for taking the government’s side on the issue.
Thus, they also decided to hold a symbolic “farewell ceremony” for their rector on Monday to show that they no longer recognize his authority.
Akin Onur Efe, a member of the ODTU debate club, told Evrensel that by allowing his students and academics to be manhandled by police, Prof. Kok proved that he no longer has defacto legitimacy as a rector.
“The rector has been showing us that he is in a power struggle with students over the university by closing some student clubs, banning a number of events and inviting the police, so to speak, to the school in this last incident,” Efe said.
Members of the Media Society also spoke to Evrensel over the police’s actions during the March.
“What recently happened on our campus, in our home; battery, detention, use of rubber bullets and hate speech, is unacceptable,” a student said.
The rector’s continuing silence in the face of violence against his students and academics be a black stain in ODTU’s history, the student added.
A member of the university’s Political Sciences Club accused Prof. Kok of “playing a key role in the police attack on campus.”
The ODTU student explained that the rector “unlawfully” tried to ban the LGBTI pride march and contacted the police department to ask them to take measures against it.
Gender Studies Society members also claimed that Prof. Kok has become a “puppet” for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government.
Underlining that LGBTI rights are human rights, a member of the society said: “We will continue to stand up against all kinds of discrimination and inequality.”
On November 18, 2017, the Ankara Governor Office banned all gay festivals, screenings, forums, and exhibitions allegedly due to security reasons, stating that it wanted to protect public order and sensitivities.
However, on April 19, 2019, the ban on LGBTI events in Ankara was lifted by the Ankara 12th Administrative Court.
The governing AKP began to intervene in the cultural events in support of LGBTI rights in the aftermath of a coup attempt on July 15, 2016.
The ruling party held forth that such activities are likely to “provoke reactions within certain segments” of society and are also at risk of being targeted by “terrorists.”
Turkey became the first Muslim majority country to allow a gay pride march in 2003, but the activists who have been staging annual marches in Ankara and Istanbul have faced police violence and mass arrests ever since.