Riot police break up ODTÜ protest in Ankara, 24 students forming human chain detained
ANKARA - Doğan News Agency
Some protesters chanted ‘demolish the Higher Education Board [YÖK] building to make a forest.’ AFP photoRiot police broke up a protest by students gathered in the city’s central Kızılay Square on Oct. 26 to denounce the cutting down of trees to make way for a controversial road through the campus of Ankara's Middle East Technical University (ODTÜ).
Dozens of students were preparing to march to the ODTÜ campus and the Higher Education Board’s (YÖK) building in the Bilkent neighborhood with trees in their hands, but police did not allow the demonstration to take place.
Scuffles erupted between police officers and students. Some 24 students who formed a human chain were detained, Doğan News Agency reported. Some of the trees that were carried by the demonstrators were destroyed during the police crackdown.
Due to its symbolism as one of Turkey's most politically engaged universities, many have criticized the Ankara Metropolitan Municipality’s decision to build a road on ODTÜ land as a political move. ODTÜ’s campus is also known for being one of the greenest and most beautiful areas of the capital.
The project involves the cutting down of 3,000 trees, many of which cannot be replanted anywhere else. The construction that started on the last night of the Feast of the Sacrifice holiday was also decried, as it was performed without the consent of the university.
ODTÜ initially authorized the construction of the road, choosing a more conciliatory position, but the university’s board has gradually toughened its stance, vowing to take legal action against the municipality’s allegedly unlawful measures.
Demonstrations have been continuing since September, but the police have answered by staging repeated crackdowns that sparked a nationwide outcry. In one such solidarity protest on Sept. 10, 22-year-old Antakya resident Ahmet Atakan was allegedly killed by a tear gas capsule fired by police.