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TRADE unions for teachers and other public-sector workers in Turkey threw their support behind protesting students and academics today as demonstrations against the political appointment of a university rector continued despite police repression.
The Ankara branch of the Confederation of Public Workers Unions (KESK) was joined at a solidarity rally by the Egitim-Sen teaching union, which went ahead despite a police blockade.
In a statement, Egitim-Sen spokesman Mutlu Arslan told those gathered that they supported the students and university staff in their efforts to “stop the shadows of power” from taking control of Istanbul’s prestigious Bogazici University.
He condemned the authorities’ heavy-handed response, which has seen scores of students detained in violent dawn raids and the handcuffing of the university gates.
“These dirty tactics could neither overshadow the just struggle of the Bogazici University components nor turn them away from their struggle,” he said.
Thousands of people have joined protests after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan appointed former Justice and Development Party (AKP) parliamentary candidate Melih Bulu by presidential decree on January 1.
His appointment, the first from outside the university community since the 1980 coup, has sparked widespread anger and is seen as a reflection of a deeply authoritarian regime tightening its grip on all aspects of life in Turkey.
Police have responded to the protests by firing tear gas and rubber bullets into crowds and at least 24 people are believed to have been arrested.
Jailed former Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) leader Selahattin Demirtas praised the students’ action, tweeting: “Your voice shakes the prison.”
Thousands of academics are among those detained in the past five years on trumped-up terrorism charges.
Some were jailed for signing a petition calling for a peaceful resolution to Turkey’s so-called Kurdish question.
The election of university rectors was abolished in 2016 and the president now has the power to appoint handpicked candidates.
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