Students begin hunger strike against ‘unfair’ punishments by university in eastern Turkey
Hakkı Özdal BİNGÖL
DHA PhotoStudents at Bingöl University in southeastern Turkey have begun a hunger strike to protest “unfair” disciplinary proceedings initiated by the administration against students who issued press statements on the university’s campus.
The administration reportedly responded to the students with disciplinary proceedings after they issued several press statements, including one to “protest violence against women” and another “to protest the killing of a university student on the street.” For a number of the statements, the students had explicitly received permission.
Throughout the 2014-2015 academic year, Bingöl University has handed punishments to around 150 students for protests, while around 20 were suspended from school for a period ranging from one to 18 months. The students claim that many have been punished despite proving they did not attend the protests.
Following the disciplinary proceedings, a group of students began a hunger strike on Feb. 24 and a second group continued the mission on March 2. The strike will continue indefinitely with groups alternating shifts, but the participating students have threatened to end the shift system and all take part together if the university does not take a positive step.
The students have four demands:
- Police should not enter the university to “attack students.”
- Unfair suspensions, as well as warnings and other disciplinary punishments, should be lifted.
- There should be no obligation to seek permission to make a press statement, which is a democratic and legal right.
- Pressure on students from private security personnel at the university should end.
Mehmet Çiftçi, the vice rector of the university, said the students were punished for “shouting illegal slogans,” “disrupting education,” “threatening students who came from western Turkey to leave the city,” and “assaulting a nationalist person visiting the university.”
A commission has been formed in the city to monitor the strike, consisting of the Bingöl Bar Association, the Eğitim-Sen Teachers’ Union, the Health and Social Service Laborers Union (SES), the Human Rights Foundation (İHD) and the Kurdish Language Research and Advancement Association (Kürdi – Der), as well as members of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and the Democratic Regions Party (DBP).