STUDENTS and staff at Istanbul’s top university have triggered a new wave of national youth protests against Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s government.
Last month, academics and students at Istanbul’s Bogazici University – the country’s leading educational institution – took to the streets to vent their anger at the appointment of Melih Buli as rector. The businessman has close ties to Erdogan’s ruling AKP party and has no prior connection to the university.
What began as a protest against the infiltration of the academic world by Erdogan’s political cronies has spawned a new wave of nationwide youth protests against the government. Last week 250 people were arrested in Istanbul and another 69 in the capital Ankara for partaking in the largest protests seen in Turkey since the 2013 Gezi Park movement.
While older Turks support AKP for their successful upgrades of the country’s roads and hospitals, Turkey’s massive youth population are growing increasingly frustrated that they do not enjoy the same freedoms and employment opportunities as their Western European counterparts. The country suffers from 29 per cent youth unemployment, while 37 per cent of recent graduates are out of work.
Erdogan has decried the protesters as “terrorists” and “LGBT youth” who are conspiring against the “national and spiritual values of Turkey.” Turkey will have five million new voters in the 2023 elections, and some analysts anticipate that a possible demographic shift could spell an end to Erdogan’s rule that has been marked by allegations of anti-democratic practices and corruption.
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