The Turkish university head at the centre of protests over his appointment by President Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday he had no intention of resigning, after tensions rose with over 300 people detained in the last two days.
Defying a government ban on demonstrations, students and teachers at Istanbul’s Bogazici University have for a month protested against the appointment of Melih Bulu, an academic and former political candidate, as rector.
They say the process was undemocratic, sparking a nationwide debate over the reach of Erdogan’s government and separate protests elsewhere in Istanbul and in Ankara.
More than 250 people were detained during protests in Istanbul this week. Most have been released 29 are still in detention and 11 remain under house arrest, authorities said. In Ankara, 69 protesters were detained on Tuesday, state-owned Anadolu news agency said.
But Turkish media quoted Bulu as telling reporters in Istanbul: “I am never thinking about resigning.”
Bulu, who once applied to run for parliament under Erdogan’s ruling AK Party, told broadcaster HaberTurk the “crisis will be totally finished within six months.”
On Tuesday, academics again gathered on the Bogazici campus with their backs turned to the rector’s building in protest. They chanted “Melih Bulu resign,” and carried signs reading “159,” the number of those detained on Monday.
The main opposition party leader, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, has called for Bulu’s resignation. Ankara Mayor Mansur Yavas told Bulu in an open letter it would be better to sacrifice his position than “academic peace, youth and our future.”
The government has dismissed criticism of the appointment, saying it is legal. Parliament Speaker Mustafa Sentop said on Wednesday he believed the protests were “organised by professionals”.
Students have shared images on social media of a picture displayed at the university that mixed LGBT symbols and Islam’s holiest site, the Kaaba shrine in Mecca. The picture was condemned by Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu.