Two students have been arrested in Turkey on January 30, 2021 on charges of inciting hatred and insulting religious values for an artwork depicting Mecca, Islam’s sacred site with LGBT flags.
Their arrest came after top Turkish officials slammed the artwork, displayed at an exhibition in Turkey’s most prestigious Bogazici University. For weeks, students and faculty have been protesting the Turkish president’s appointment of Melih Bulu, a new rector who has links to his ruling party and clashes have broken out with police.
A video of the two students arrested was released on Twitter on January 31, 2021. The students were heard saying: “Don’t worry too much about us, share your support, now it’s your turn.”
The students denying the unjust arrest of their friends made a solidarity video responding to their friends’ call with “Bundan Sonrası Bizde” (now it’s our turn) and explaining in detail the background of the artwork that sparked major controversy among the conservatives in Turkey.
You can watch the video here and/or read the transcription below.
The protests that started with Melih Bulu’s appointment as the rector and which went viral among all universities have been continuing for 4 weeks. Among the many protests that were being held was an outdoor art exhibition. To do this exhibition more than 300 pieces were sent all from around the world. The piece that attracted major controversy was anonymously sent, just like many others. None of the art pieces were subject to an elimination process. On the last day of the exhibition, on 29th of January, 5 of our friends were taken into custody. One of them didn’t get any detention. Two of them got home detention and the last two were arrested. We would like to remind you that these protests were held for the sake of democracy in our universities. We who seek democratic rights just wish free academy. As such, the main goal of the protests was always to oppose the restricting and anti-democratic appointments on our academias and NEVER was to disrespect any public values. We acknowledge the sensitivity that is aimed at our exhibition. We also acknowledge that no art form is closed to criticism. However, to be trialed because of an art piece is against the basics of free speech. Since the beginning of our protests, the university students, and mostly the LGBT+ community was being reflected as unjust and alone. A big smear campaign was being held by the government authority and their media on the 29th of January. Our appointed rector Melih Bulu supported this smear campaign. Our friends were detained on the charge of TCK-216-3 which doesn’t grant the right to arrest. The charge later was turned into TCK-216-1 which doesn’t cover our friends’ act. The art piece cannot be subjected to TCK-216-1 and thus the arrest decree for our friends is unjust. The goal behind these arrests is the weakening and silencing of our rightful protests. We share this video with you with the hopes that the public can see the truth behind the mist and announce that we stand by our friends. We demand that our friends be freed and the appointed rector leaves his position!
You can support the cause of Boğaziçi University students by sending letters to Turkish Consulates closest to your area of accommodation to demand release of the students or by enabling visibility your social media channels.
Below you find the official social media channels of the students’ protests.
Twitter: Resist Bogazici (in English)
Twitter: Boğaziçi Direnişi (in Turkish)