Istanbul police disperse students commemorating 1915 massacres
ISTANBULPolice dispersed Istanbul Technical University (İTÜ) students on April 24 as they attempted to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the events of 1915, which Armenia and a number of countries recognize as genocide, Doğan News Agency reported.
A group of students from the Peoples’ Democratic Congress (HDK) wanted to organize a commemoration for the centenary of the massacres at İTÜ’s Maslak campus, but a brawl began when private security guards tried to remove a banner and placards that the students had hung.
The students who organized the commemoration for the victims shouted slogans such as “Shoulder to shoulder against fascism,” and “Murderous police, get out of the university.”
Tensions within universities about the 1915 incidents are not new. A conference on the 1915 incidents with the title “The Armenian Genocide: Concepts and Comparative Perspectives,” which was canceled at its initial venue of Istanbul’s Bilgi University, will be held at the Boğaziçi University on April 26, while 100 scholars from Bilgi University released a joint declaration disapproving of the cancellation, Armenian-Turkish weekly Agos reported.
The scholars from the Bilgi University expressed in their joint declaration that the university’s attitude was not in line with the academic freedom, but was “siding with the borders of the prevalent doctrine.”
“We find the hampering intervention by the political, administrative or economic powers toward any academic activity on the Armenian genocide or on another topic and in a foundation or state university unacceptable regarding academic and democratic freedom,” read a part of the statement issued on April 23, one day before the April 24, which is marked by Armenia as Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day.
The statement said academic freedom needed the utmost protection when much-debated and unrecognized topics were being opened to debate.
The conference, which was jointly organized by Istanbul Bilgi University, the History Foundation (Tarih Vakfı) and UCLA was slated to begin on April 26, but was prevented from taking place at its initial venue.
In early April, the Dean’s Office announced that the conference would not be held at the university, but refused to elaborate. The university announced a few days later that the school had not canceled the conference as an official request to organize the conference was never submitted to the rector’s office.
In 2005, a conference where the 1915 incidents would question Turkey’s official line on the massacre of Armenians under the Ottoman Empire at Istanbul’s Boğazici and Sabancı Universities, was blocked by a court order.
The conference was moved to Bilgi University, which opened its doors for the event out of solidarity in order to circumvent the court ruling that barred the event from taking place at the original venue.
The joint declaration by the scholars reminded of this incident in 2005 and said the university’s current move was a regressive act in terms of academic freedom.