Efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus pandemic should not be used as an excuse for “silencing critical voices,” said Europe’s top diplomat Josep Borrell on Thursday after more than a hundred demonstrators were arrested after opposing the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had protested the appointment of a controversial party member as head of Istanbul’s Bogazici University.
“The European Union is seriously concerned about the negative developments in Turkey in the areas of rule of law, human rights and justice,” the Union’s External Action Service (EEAS) said in a statement.
“The COVID-19 pandemic cannot be used to silence critical voices,” she added, arguing that the students were exercising their “legitimate right” to freedom of assembly.
Borrell also warned that the Istanbul governor’s decision to ban all kinds of meetings, demonstrations and demonstrations in two districts in the hinterland of Bogazici University is a “deeply worrying development” that is heading against the country’s commitment to reform EU values and standards “violates.
He also slammed the closure of an LGBT club and anti-LGBT rhetoric by high-ranking officials, calling it “hate speech”.
Erdogan’s decision to appoint Melih Bulu, a person closely associated with Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), as rector of the Turkish university, where more than 15,000 students study on the European side of Istanbul sentenced by students and academics who raised concerns about the increasing politicization of university administrations across the country.
Bulu, who was appointed on January 1 by a presidential decree issued by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, ran for the AKP in the 2015 parliamentary elections. Erdogan was empowered to appoint rectors at the university through an emergency decree issued in 2016 after surviving a failed coup in 2016.
Protests erupted last month in which students exposed violations of academic independence and escalated this week with clashes between protesters and police. What began as a peaceful demonstration has now developed into a civil unrest, which is one of the largest mobilizations since the Gezi Park movement in 2013.
“The excessive use of force by the police against people who exercise their right to freedom of expression is contrary to Turkey’s obligations as a candidate country and a long-standing member of the Council of Europe,” added Borrell, deciphering the police’s actions against hundreds of demonstrators were arrested in Istanbul and Ankara this week.
In response to criticism from Washington and Paris abroad, Erdogan said France should be “ashamed” of the government’s handling of protests while recalling the US “had reached a record high in racism,” referring to the events that took place in the United States before elections.