Stop ‘us and them’ polarization, ODTÜ rector tells politicians
ODTÜ Rector Ahmet Acar delivers a speech during the inauguration ceremony for the new academic year, which took place Sept. 23 without the attendance of any politicians. AA photoMiddle East Technical University (ODTÜ) rector Ahmet Acar has called on politicians and opinion leaders to step up their role to lessen the polarization within society.
During the inauguration ceremony for the new academic year, which took place Sept. 23 without the attendance of any politicians, Acar said religious, sectarian and nationality-based diversions among the society puts mark on Turkey’s social and political life and the political leaders have the biggest responsibility to stop that.
“In order for us to be a majoritarian democratic society, first those in the power must avoid attempting to dominate all parts of the society. Rather they must be ready to open up space for different opinions and lifestyles,” he said.
According to the rector, the behavior of public actors is watched and received as a model by the majority of society, so their policies are key to stopping what Acar described as “you and us” segregation.
ODTÜ has recently faced off against the government and the Ankara municipality over a planned road project crossing through the university campus and a recent protest by some students against another group on campus promoting Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen’s movement.
The Ankara Municipality’s road project had caused huge indignation, leading the students to take action. Protesters opposing the construction of the road project that had foreseen the destruction of around 3,000 trees have staged protests in the campus as well as across the country for days.
“Different sections of society defending their unmet demands and seeking rights, protesting actions and organizations are all in the nature of democracy,” he said, while condemning the use of violent and bullying means, which “blocks the way to be a majoritarian democratic society.”
It’s also important for people and institutions authorized to implement laws to be trusted for not “taking sides” and state’s power will remain on legal and legitimate grounds, he highlighted.
Meanwhile, video footage showing a protestor shouting at a girl wearing the headscarf during the protests also sparked a heated debated as the incident was widely reported as a protest against the wearing of headscarves in universities. However the students who initiated the protest have said it was actually a demonstration against the activities of the Fetullah Gülen’s “Hizmet” movement on campus.
Touching upon that incident as well, Acar stated that the incident at issue had nothing to do with limiting headscarved students’ education rights. “We see that approaching these kinds of incidents with a grudge would increase the tension among society,” he said.
The rector said those who took sides sought symbols and concrete targets to identify the tensions they experienced and ODTÜ had been singled out to be turned into the focus of disputes during the recent incidents.