Police in Turkey have fired rubber bullets and teargas to disperse demonstrating students who were protesting against how the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan uses the Council of Higher Education (YÖK) as an instrument of state control.
Over 200 students gathered at Istanbul University campus and shouted slogans against Erdoğan and his government’s control over universities on Friday, the 34th anniversary of the foundation of the Council of Higher Education, tasked with supervising the country’s universities according to the constitution. The Constitution of the Republic of Turkey was ratified on November 7, 1982.
Students say the institution was established by the then military junta in 1981 and is still considered as a tool by the government to control the higher education centers.
According to reports, some of the students sustained injuries during the clashes and police made a number of arrests.
“The youth will not be intimidated, Erdoğan and YÖK will be toppled,” said one banner brandished by the students. They also shouted, “The killer government will be brought to account.”
Meanwhile, the state-run Anadolu Agency reported that two people were also arrested in the country’s southeastern province of Şanlıurfa over “insulting” the president on social media.
Since his election as the Turkish president last August, Erdoğan’s lawyers have filed dozens of cases against alleged “insults” targeting him.
Also on Friday, Ankara police stormed the offices of a major business group accused of having ties with US-based Turkish opposition leader Muhammed Fethullah Gülen, who was a former close ally of Erdoğan’s but later became a fierce critic.
Gülen reportedly has many followers in some arms of Turkey’s state apparatus, such as the judiciary, police, and secret services.
The crackdown comes days after Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) won a decisive parliamentary election on Sunday. Over the past few weeks, Ankara has increased its crackdown on dissent.