Istanbul rector at heart of protests rules out quitting

ISTANBUL (AFP) – A Turkish university rector at the heart of protests posing a growing challenge to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan ruled out quitting yesterday and predicted that the rallies will soon end.

Over 300 students and their supporters were detained in Istanbul and the capital Ankara in increasingly violent altercations with the police this week.

The demonstrations erupted after Erdogan appointed party loyalist Melih Bulu as the head of Istanbul’s elite Bogazici University at the start of the year.

Bulu was a candidate in the 2015 general election for Erdogan’s ruling AKP party.

“I never think about resigning,” Bulu told the HaberTurk daily. “I initially predicted this crisis would be over within six months and it will be so.”

The youth-driven demonstrations have echoes of 2013 protests that sprang up against plans to demolish an Istanbul park before spreading nationally and presenting a direct challenge to Erdogan’s rule.

The rallies turned violent on Tuesday, with police firing tear gas and plastic bullets while being pelted with various objects from the crowd.

Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said 79 of the detainees were “members of terror groups”, including the far-left Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front (DHKP/C).

“They have occupied the rector’s office. I cannot allow this when I am interior minister,” he said.

A protestors confront Turkish police after clashes erupt during a demonstration. PHOTO: AFP