1,000 students have clashed with the police at the METU University in Ankara, Turkey. The students were protesting the visit of the Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan – who has been pushing an agenda of privatisation across higher education in Turkey for the last couple of years.
The demonstration started at 15.50 and was peaceful. At 16.15, without warning or provocation, over 3,000 police officers attacked the protesters, using rubber bullets, irritant gas, and water cannons. Scores of students are reported to have been injured, with at least one on a life support machine in hospital after suffering a brain hemorrhage after being hit by a tear gas canister.
The police report having used 2000 tear gas canisters, 80 sound bombs, and 8 water canon vehicles. 12 students have been arrested and charged with assaulting police officers, and have been refused their legal right of speaking to a solicitor – no reason has been given for this.
In the days since the protest a number of addresses across Ankara have been raided as the police attempt to find the ‘ring leaders’. Anti-terror legislation is being used as the basis for the raids.
Hundreds of students have subsequently held further protests to demand the release of the detainees, and have even marched to the prime ministers offices. Many academic staff at METU are refusing to teach until all prisoners have been released.
A witness to the brutality reports that:
“Police were casting tear gas bombs at students every 30 seconds. They were even attacking harshly as students were retreating. Police might be seeking revenge from previous student protests”.
Amnesty International has called on the Turkish government to launch a ‘speedy’ and comprehensive investigation as to what actually happened….. I am not quite sure that asking the state to look into its own violence will get the desired results.
The Turkish Prime Minister has given an interview on TV dismissing accusations that the police were ‘heavy handed’ in their response to demonstrating students.
Solidarity protests have taken place across Turkey. In Adana students were subjected to attacks with rubber bullets and gas, leaving dozens injured. In Mershin students protested on the steps of the University management offices. In Eskieshir police set up barricades and fired gas canisters at hundreds of students, and were attacked by private security guards. Similar protests occurred at campuses in Izmir, Trabzon, and Kocaeli.
Within the last few hours the detained students have all been released on bail.