Turkey dismisses criticism of response to university protests

Riot police fire tear gas in Istanbul, Turkey, February 2, 2021 – Image: REUTERS/Umit Bektas

(Reuters) – Turkey’s foreign ministry on Thursday dismissed international criticism of its response to the month-long protests at one of the country’s top universities, warning that such criticism could encourage what it called illegal acts.

Students and teachers at Istanbul’s Bogazici University have protested President Tayyip Erdogan’s appointment of Melih Bulu, an academic and former political candidate, as rector. They say the process was undemocratic.

“We warn certain circles (abroad) not to use language provoking groups that resort to illegal ways and encourage illegal actions,” the foreign ministry said without naming specific countries.

“It is nobody’s place to intervene Turkey’s internal affairs,” it said in a statement.

The United States on Wednesday said it was concerned by the detention of students and other demonstrators, and condemned what it said was anti-LGBTQI rhetoric around the protests.

Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu referred to some of the student protesters as “LGBT deviants”, while Erdogan said on Wednesday there was “no such thing” as LGBT.

The United Nations Human Rights Office also called for an end to excessive use of force to students and protesters, condemning in a tweet “the homophobic & transphobic comments by the officials”.

-Tuvan Gumrukcu Writing by Ezgi Erkoyun

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