Erdoğan urges education body to take action after ODTÜ prayer brawl
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan speaks at an event organized by the Association of Arts, Thought and Education (SADED) at a congress center in Istanbul’s Beyoğlu district on Dec. 26, 2015. AA PhotoTurkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said the higher education body should do whatever needed following a brawl between two groups of students at Middle East Technical University (ODTÜ) after one group attempted to perform prayers on a basketball court in protest at the alleged lack of places to worship on the site.
“They attacked the students performing prayers at ODTÜ. YÖK [Higher Education Board] should do whatever is needed on this,” the state-run Anadolu Agency quoted Erdoğan as saying during an event organized by the Association of Arts, Thought and Education (SADED) at a congress center in Istanbul’s Beyoğlu district on Dec. 26.
Erdoğan said the presidency would closely follow up on developments over the brawl between two student groups and urged YÖK, the top body dealing with higher education institutions, to do its part in the incident.
The brawl broke out between the two groups at the university’s campus on Dec. 22 with one group demanding a new prayer room and another saying those who wanted a new prayer room were campaigning on behalf of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
The university said the brawl was not caused by insufficient religious places or the prevention of religious practices as was claimed but provocative efforts by those with ISIL-like mentalities at a time new prayer room demands were being evaluated.
The university also said government figures would bear responsibility for any possible attacks against ODTÜ students over their remarks in line with their political intentions, referring to Justice and Development Party (AKP) Ankara deputy Aydın Ünal’s statements in which he said “we can enter ODTÜ if required, just like how we enter Cizre and Silopi,” following the brawl.
The university also vowed not to surrender to such collective provocations, while highlighting that it was up to the university to decide who manages the university amid calls for Rector Ahmet Acar’s resignation on social media.