Turkish police target Boğaziçi students, detain dozens from protest

(Updates throughout with developments.)

Riot police intervened in a demonstration in Istanbul’s Kadıköy district by university students, beating protesters and detaining several on Thursday.

Boğaziçi University students had called the demonstration “to stand shoulder to shoulder against illegitimate appointees, police brutality, and the regime of fear, to say we don’t accept unlawful decrees”, they said in a tweet.

Another focus of the demonstration was to demand freedom for two students who had been detained in previous protests in the prestigious institution.

Earlier in the day, Kadıköy’s governor had banned gatherings and protests in the district, citing public health concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic. Students announced they would go ahead with their protest regardless.

Protests at Boğaziçi University began on Jan. 4, after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan appointed party loyalist Melih Bulu as rector to the university, against the traditions of one of the oldest universities in the country.

The demonstrations later spread through the city and rest of the country, resulting in a police crackdown which saw hundreds of students detained, their homes raided, and their supporters denounced as “terrorists” by government officials. 

Some 40 people were detained in the police intervention in Kadıköy, according to a Twitter account run by the students. Several were dragged on the ground, police officers kneeling on their backs.

Journalist Tuğba Özer shared a video showing the police shoving students in a detention van, and preventing reporters from documenting the mistreatment of students.

Detained students were taken to hospitals for routine pre-custody check-ups.

Officers pushed a protester to the ground at the entrance of a Kadıköy hospital's emergency room in handcuffs, after allegedly choking the protester.

Many students were choked during the police intervention and throughout the detention process.