AAA supports Bogaziçi University’s Right to Governance and Protest in Turkish Higher Education

On behalf of our 8000 members worldwide, the AAA calls upon the Turkish government to unconditionally stop the attacks on Boğaziçi University faculty and students. We also endorse the replacement of the unqualified political appointee Melih Bulu, and request that a university Rector who has the necessary qualifications and a commitment to the principles of shared university governance that assure the protection of teaching and learning in an environment of academic freedom be appointed.

We recognize and support the students, faculty, and staff of Boğaziçi University and other Turkish universities that have been boldly and steadfastly protesting anti-democratic and authoritarian policies at Boğaziçi University. In addition to the appointment of an unqualified political appointee as rector by Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the policies also include the establishment of two new faculties contrary to university procedures and the removal of three faculty members from deanships in 2022. Across seven months of protest, activists succeeded in exposing Bulu’s lack of qualifications and incompetence. Staff, students, and alumni then organized a vote to determine who the replacement should have been and recommended this to President Erdogan. However, Erdogan replaced Bulu with the latter’s deputy, Naci Inci, who has continued to purge staff, discipline students, and justify arbitrary detention of students.

During the many months of steadfast protest, the government has demonized protesting students as terrorists and denigrated and harassed LGBTQI+ students and community members. The AAA has signed a petition related to this issue that makes the following demands:

  • the reinstitution of electoral procedures to fill major administrative positions at the university, including the position of Rector, Dean and Head of Institute,
  • the reinstatement of unfairly dismissed staff,
  • an end to the legal harassment of Boğaziçi staff and students,
  • the lifting of all restrictions on student and academic activities, and
  • a return to democratic governance principles that made Bogazici a center of excellence and allowed faculty and students control over administrative decisions, academic programs, teaching, extra-curricular activities and university property.

We confirm our support of these important goals. Boğaziçi University is a tuition-free public institution accessible to top students from around the country. As described by professors who have participated in the protests, the university aims “to educate young minds attuned to democratic principles and capable of critical thinking,” and it resisted the headscarf ban imposed in the late 1990s. This commitment to independence and democratic governance makes it a target of the Erdoğan government. In upholding our commitment to academic freedom, the AAA strongly supports Boğaziçi University’s faculty and students and other Turkish students and academics in their demands.

We acknowledge and thank the Middle East Section of the American Anthropological Association for proposing and subsequently drafting this statement.