Feminist struggle in Boğaziçi was there before the appointments and will also continue after them

Simge İngün

Click to read in Kurdish or Turkish.

How did the feminist struggle- one of the leading struggles within the resistance beginning with the rector appointment, start; what was it confronted with during the resistance and  how its future will be?

On June 2, 2021, the Boğaziçi Resistance which began with the appointment of Prof. Dr. Melih Bulu who is a former candidate for the nomination of member of parliament from Justice and Development Party (AKP) and which still lasts is not only a university struggle. Demands which students assert  in the end of each and every press release address various struggles. One of them is feminist struggle. 

Women and LGBTI+s engaging in the Boğaziçi Resistance have maintained not only the struggle for democratic universities but also the struggle for their own existence against trustees and the government.

The foundations of the vigorous feminist struggle in the Boğaziçi Resistance were provided before the appointment of Melih Bulu to Boğaziçi University. We have closely looked into how the feminist struggle in Boğaziçi University began before the appointment of Bulu, what they have experienced during the resistance and how it will continue.

Before the resistance: Clubs, solidarity groups

As long as the government continued to attack women and LGBTI+s, feminists who fight for their existence in the streets and squares also maintained their struggle in campuses for a long time.

Student clubs provided  essential spaces for carrying on the feminist struggle in campuses.

One student club conducting feminist studies in Boğaziçi University- which was established by female academicians was Boğaziçi University Women Studies Club (BÜKAK). Another one was Boğaziçi University Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transexual, Intersex+ Studies Club (BÜLGBTI+).

Those clubs, in addition to feminist studies, provided spaces for solidarity.  Except for clubs, there were other spaces for feminist solidarity within the university.

The Boğaziçi Resistance Process: Closed clubs, cut-off grants, filed lawsuits and lasting struggle

In Boğaziçi University, implementations targeting women and LGBTI+s started with the appointment of Mehmed Özkan in 2016.

  • The Hande Kader Grant which was initiated through the collaboration between BÜLGBTI+ and Boğaziçi University Foundation (BÜVAK) was canceled by the rectorate on August 21, 2017.
  • Along with the regulation which obligated the separation of  dormitory buildings into one for women and one for men and banned two people’s staying together, mixed dormitories in Boğaziçi University were closed and the gender identities of students were ignored. 
  • The share of women which was 82% of  the administrations and deaneries in Boğaziçi University before the appointment of Mehmed Özkan  dropped  to 55%. 

Starting with the Mehmed Özkan administration, oppressions and attacks targeted women as well as LGBTI+s and supported by the government continued during the Melih Bulu and Naci Inci periods. Feminist struggle, as well. From the first day of the Boğaziçi Resistance, women and LGBTI+s were in the streets. During the process, they were subjected to oppressions, investigations, detentions and arrestments. In the course of time, that the government attacked women and LGBTI+s with the help of trustees made visible how related the Boğaziçi Resistance and the feminist struggle were.

  • On January 20, 2021, the first Pride March of the year took place and LGBTI+s staged a protest saying “ No to Trustees.” Shortly after the pride march, an attack was made on the club door by unknown assailants.
  • On January 28, 2021, through a work of art called “Şahmeran” partaking in the exhibition organized by BOUNSergi, LGBTI+s faced targeting and hate speech which politicians and the media also participated in. While the trial process of two students who were detained pretrial was beginning, through Boğaziçi University Rectorate’s article dated February 1, 2021, BÜLGBTI+’s club nomination status was revoked and the club was closed. Club members strongly reacted to that in the streets and on social media as well as filed a lawsuit for the cancellation of the judgment.
  • Students who showed solidarity with a student staging a protest against the police violence  and having an investigation on the grounds that they was carrying a LGBTI+ flag, were detained; a lawsuit filed against them together with other students protesting detentions.
  • On April 2, 2021, the only paid employee of Boğaziçi University Commission to Prevent Sexual Harassment (CİTÖK) Cemre Baytok was given an indefinite unpaid leave and CİTÖK was actually left functionless. On August 3, 2021, Baytok was  dismissed. Female students who staged a protest over CİTÖK’s being left functionless through hanging a banner which read “ We will not give up on either Istanbul Convention or CİTÖK” confronted with disciplinary proceedings.

On November 26, 2021, Naci İnci sought an injunction against 13 students including the detained ones on the basis of the law no 6284. On November 1, women who  gathered in Kadıköy to state “Enforce 6284 not for Nacis but for Şebnems”also said “We will send Naci İnci away and make İstanbul Convention and 6284 enforced.” Students within the university protested against the decision by chanting slogans “Slaughtered women are our rebellion!” Afterwards, a lawsuit was filed against  8 students who participated in the protest and it hasn’t ended yet.

  • On May 20, 2022, the 9th Boğaziçi Pride Parade- the Boğaziçi Pride Week activity annually organized by BÜLGBTI+ was banned by the rectorate with an e- mail, as 41 minutes left to its start. Press releases were precluded. During the parade, 70 students blockaded without any warning were detained through torture. 
Photo: Boğaziçi Resistance
  • During the İnci period, through discharging elected deans and appointing new deans instead, the rate for women working at deanery falled to 8%. 

The future of the struggle: “Away with trustees, be campuses safe”

While the resistance continues,  students maintain feminist struggle in additon to their struggle for universities.

Boğaziçi University student Gülru Turhan and BÜLGBTİ+ member Mert Güneş talked about struggle’s today and tomorrow.

 Saying that the feminist struggle in the campus continues, Gülru Tarhan also expressed their demands:

“Our feminist struggle continues rising above the increasing hetero-patriarchal oppressions. We are demanding that trustees immediately leave the universities, all trustee processes hindering the feminist organization within the university end and our university become a safe place both for women and LGBTI+s.”

Against the oppressions and attacks targeted at women and LGBTI+s, Gülru Turhan told that chanting the slogan that universities have to be autonomous feminist universities, they call all university components to carry out an organized feminist policy.

Mert Güneş described the attacks on LGBTI+s inside the university: 

One mostly significant attack on BÜLGBTIA+ other than its being closed was prohibiting its rise from a club nomination to an official  club which was actually supposed to take place  in 2017. Since the appointment of the first trustee, most of our activities have taken place under civilian police surveillance. Sometimes, on the grounds of morals of society, we were confronted with censure and preclusion. Campaigns against us, including LGBTIA-phobic slanders and  targeting, were launched several times. All those attacks are triggered by the  stigmatization as well as alienation of the identities, desires and bodies of queers. Is it possible that LGBTIA+-phobia provoked by the state doesn’t affect the queers of Boğaziçi?”

Stating that they learned their club’s being closed through Fahrettin Altun’s tweet, Güneş says that it naturally indicates that the decision was directly given by the government. He conveyed the trial process:

“Now, the legal proceeding regarding the closing issue continues. The lawsuit we have filed within the administrative court was rejected and we applied to the higher court for the judgment given. We believe that considering its unlawfulness and violation, a judgment in favor of us will be given sooner or later.” 

Mert Güneş responded to our question about whether he follows LGBTI+ studies in other universities or not:

“Unfortunately, there is no university which wasn’t affected by the political conjecture in Turkey and didn’t take its share of the government’s hostility to LGBTIA+. For instance, last year, the Pride Parade was held despite the 2nd trustee Bulu but this year, 70 students were detained with the 3rd trustee İnci’s approval. The previous parade was the last Pride Parade which could be held in a university and wasn’t banned. We didn’t know, then! Quite recently, we heard that KoçQueer’s activity was censored. Similarly, queers of Hacettepe were also fighting against censors.”

Güneş says that the club activities also continued after the decision for its being closed:

“Club keeps doing its activities. For instance, last week, 9th Boğaziçi Pride Week took place. On May 20, the Pride Parade was held. Surely, it took a great deal of effort. We were perpetually faced with preclusion and difficulties. People trying to cooperate with us were also faced with similar difficulties. We will never give up. As long as we- queers, are in Boğaziçi, we will not stop speaking, hide; we will keep shouting, marching, being visible and showing solidarity.” 

*June 2022

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