Young Turks revisited

February 6, 2014

Jack Grove’s excellent feature “Out of control” (5 December) rightly highlighted the role of Turkish students and scholars in the large anti-government demonstrations last year that centred on the occupation of Istanbul’s Gezi Park. Students and scholars from the leading universities, especially the Middle East Technical University (METU) in Ankara, have long had key roles in Turkish political life.

Since its establishment in 1956, METU has been more than a symbol of academic excellence, it has also been a focal point of autonomy, freedom and independence.

The event that sparked the students’ anger against the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) before “Occupy Gezi” was the visit of the prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, to the METU campus. Students who opposed AKP policies and the prime minister’s repressive tactics protested on campus and were attacked by a reported 3,000 police using riot control vehicles, water cannon and tear gas. Afterwards, METU academics and administration publicly expressed their disapproval of such brutal policing and supported students’ right to protest, to the ire of the prime minister.

METU received great support from universities nationwide, except for those newly established institutions that are closely tied to the ruling party. The declarations from the academics nationwide were a litmus test for academic freedom and autonomy. Students across the country demonstrated against the prime minister and his administration and gave full support to METU.

Occupy Gezi was not an isolated event; while many METU students went to Istanbul to support their peers in Gezi Park, hundreds of others joined demonstrations around Ankara against the AKP administration.

Today, as the government struggles with allegations of corruption among officials and a question mark hangs over the role of the prime minister, demonstrations and protests continue in Ankara and Istanbul. Many Turkish people, with students prominent among them, are demanding an end to government corruption. Secularists and educated people remain determined to construct a modern Turkey.

Burak Yedierler
Associate professor
Department of physics
Middle East Technical University

Times Higher Education free 30-day trial

You've reached your article limit

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 6 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Most Commented

United Nations peace keeper

Understanding the unwritten rules of graduate study is vital if you want to get the most from your PhD supervision, say Kevin O'Gorman and Robert MacIntosh

David Parkins Christmas illustration (22 December 2016)

A Dickensian tale, set in today’s university

Eleanor Shakespeare illustration (5 January 2017)

Fixing problems in the academic job market by reducing the number of PhDs would homogenise the sector, argues Tom Cutterham

poi, circus

Kate Riegle van West had to battle to bring her circus life and her academic life together

Houses of Parliament, Westminster, government

There really is no need for the Higher Education and Research Bill, says Anne Sheppard