01/07/2021, 14.48
TURKEY
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Students protest against the appointment of a pro-Erdoğan dean at an Istanbul University

Ignoring threats from police and the authorities, students hold a second rally in three days playing the music of Metallica. At least 36 people are arrested. Melih Bulu, Boğaziçi University’s new dean, is the target of protesters, who are a challenge to Erdoğan’s power, the “Master of Puppets”, raising fears of a new Gezi Park movement.

Istanbul (AsiaNews) – Ignoring threats from the police, hundreds of Turkish students took to the streets of Istanbul yesterday for the second time in three days to protest against the appointment of a loyalist of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as dean of a city university.

The man in the students’ crosshair is Melih Bulu. Appointed to head the famous Boğaziçi University, he ran for the ruling party Justice and Development Party (AKP) and lost in the 2015 general elections.

The student protest is one of the rare open challenges to Erdoğan's power in recent years.

After the night of an attempted military coup in the summer of 2016 in which 250 people died, when the AKP leader's power wavered, the government launched a veritable witch hunt.

Tens of thousands of opponents were targeted – activists, leading figures at home and abroad, military, judges, teachers, intellectuals – for membership, real or imagined, in the movement of Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen, accused of being the mastermind of the failed coup.

The first rally was held on Monday when over a thousand students took on the police, which responded forcefully, arresting at least 36 protesters in the early hours of the next day.

To prevent other demonstrations, police sealed the gates of the university and surrounded the area. This did not prevent students from calling for more protest on social media and gathering in the streets against yesterday.

Hundreds marched along the Bosporus, then boarded a ferry to the Asian side of Istanbul, where they met another crowd of young people waiting for them.

A thousand students shouted slogans playing music from Metallica, the famous US rock band which Melih Bulu said he liked.

One placard referred to Erdoğan as the “Master of Puppets”, a reference to the group’s 1986 album, whilst another read “Nothing else matters”, one of the group's iconic refrains.

“To walk together on such a day of defiance makes us feel very good,” said student Zehra Aydemir.

“I am proud that my friends and I were able to meet up and fight for what we want,” added university graduate Cinar Cifter.

The authorities reacted immediately.

Devlet Bahceli, Erdoğan's ally and leader of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), said that the protests “need to be crushed” before they grow further. His concern is that they might get out of hand and turn into a repeat of the 2013 Gezi Park movement.

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