On METU Protests, Amnesty Demands an Investigation (updated)

Poster protesting police violence at Middle East Technical University

Poster protesting police violence at Middle East Technical University

The normally quiet campus of Middle East Technical University was turned into a warzone earlier this week.  On Tuesday, Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan’s visit to the campus was met by several hundred student protesters, carrying signs and shouting slogans.  They, in turn, were met by some 3000 law enforcement officers and perhaps 100 armoured vehicles.

By the end of the day, approximately fifty students were injured, three seriously.  One of the demonstrators, Barış Barışık, was hit in the head by a pepper spray canister and remains hospitalized with a brain hemorrhage.

According to an Amnesty International statement released last night:

Eyewitnesses also told Amnesty International that on seeing the police barricade, demonstrators stopped marching, but continued to shout slogans. Eyewitnesses alleged that police began to fire sound bombs and pepper spray into the crowd without warning. It is alleged by students that clashes continued for almost seven hours and nearly 2000 used gas canisters were collected and approximately 70 sound bombs were counted.

As part of its general crackdown on dissent, Turkish universities and Turkish students have been particularly targeted.  Yet Turkey is required, as a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to protect its citizens’ rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly.  On this basic obligation, it is clearly failing.

Turkish authorities must ensure that police do not use excessive force against peaceful protesters.  And they must conduct a prompt, thorough and independent investigation into the use of excessive force by police on 18 December 2012.

Update (December 22)

– Protests were held on university campuses throughout the country on Thursday.   According to media reports, police again met demonstrators with plastic bullets and tear gas at a number of universities.

– Turkish authorities have still made no indication that they are ready to investigate the use of excessive force by police, but they are clearly pursuing student protestors in earnest: new arrests were made at the university protests on Thursday and anti-terror police have conducted raids connected to the original protests at Middle East Technical University.

– For his part, Prime Minister Erdoğan blames the professors, saying “What a shame! Shame on the professors who raised those students. Instructors first have to teach their students how to be respectful…”


For further reading on Turkey’s targeting of students and scholars, see these blog posts from Amnesty – USA’s main site:

Freedom of Speech? Not if you You’re a Student

In Turkey: The Ivory Tower Besieged

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