Tension in Turkey's ODTÜ rises over project, protests

Tension in Turkey's ODTÜ rises over project, protests

Tension between the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Middle East Technical University (ODTÜ) is on the rise, 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.

In the latest chapter of the tension, the AKP’s Ankara mayor, Melih Gökçek, has announced that he has filed criminal complaints against deputies from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Aylin Nazlıaka, İlhan Cihaner and Hüseyin Aygün, for supporting the protests against the road project.

Gökçek claims that the deputies blocked construction equipment, threw stones, prevented public servants from performing their duty, resisted public staff, provoked crime, and harmed public property.

On the other hand, a lawyer has opened a “suspension of execution” case against the ODTÜ road project, petitioning the Ankara Administrative Court.

The road project will pass through the leafy campus and lead to destruction of around 3,000 trees, sparking protests that have intensified since Sept. 6. An occupation near the campus entrance against the project has been ongoing since last month.

For the past few days, police have been frequently intervening with water cannons and tear gas, while also detaining some of the protesters.

Meanwhile, the recent protest by a group of students on campus opposing the activities of the Gülen’ movement, also known as “Community,” has been slammed in bitter language by Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ.

“It has been said that it is not about headscarf. OK, it is not about headscarf, it is about the Community. ‘The Community cannot come here, there is no place for Community members here.’ Isn’t this an ugly thing? Isn’t this bigotry, reactionaryism, fascism?,’” Bozdağ said. “We can never turn a blind eye or allow any group to be taken out of Turkey’s universities, for either wearing headscarves, being a member of the Community, or any another group, idea, belief for that matter. Whoever has done this, this is banditry, fascism. They will definitely find a working law before them,” he added.

“I think the administration is also negligent here. If the administration had taken the necessary precautions, such events would not be repeated,” Bozdağ said, while demanding an explanation from university rector about who the security on campus takes orders from.

Similarly, the head of the Higher Education Board of Turkey (YÖK), Gökhan Çetinsaya, stated that an investigation would be opened. “What happened in ODTÜ can never ever be accepted and can in no way be tolerated. In every meaning, I have instructed the Supervisory Board to inquire into the subject from every respect,” Çetinsaya said.

The incident was widely reported as a protest against the wearing of headscarves in universities, but the students who initiated the protest have said it was actually a demonstration against the activities of the “Hizmet” movement on campus. They said the movement slanders and gives false information to students about university dormitories, in order to attract them to their own dormitories.