Freedom of AssociationLGBTI/EN

“Rainbow Detentions in Bogazici is just one instance of hate crimes”


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Students who witnessed the “Rainbow Detentions” which occurred as part of Bogazici University protests talked about the process they encountered.

Protests staged against a trustee rector’s being appointed to Bogazici University by the president of the republic have continued since the year of 2021. In addition to the detentions, arrests and trials within those protests, students were confronted with severe right violations and hate crimes.

Detained students N.D and S.Y. during the  incidents which took place on March 25 – 26, 2021- also known as “Rainbow Detentions” among students, are the two subjected to hate crimes which targeted LGBT+s and got provoked by the government. We spoke about the happenings.

The rainbow flag at the campus gate

The process began on February 1, 2021. Two students were detained and arrested on the grounds that in the piece which has been displayed in the exhibition, rainbow flag was pictured over the Kabe illustration. Students who wanted to gather in Bogazici University for their friends’ being released immediately have been confronted with demonstration bans and also another annoying scene.

The presence of snipers positioned on the buildings before their campus seemed odd even to students who have been living through heavily armed police patrols for weeks.

N.D.  narrated the events took place on that day:

“Snipers were concealed on the roofs of houses across the campus and were waiting with their guns at the ready. On that day they were worried about neither ruffians nor Mafiosi. To be honest, if there had been ruffians with guns in the district, they wouldn’t come either. What they were frightened of was us- with all the colours, rainbows, rights and determination we have to defend our university.”

Being aware of what they should do in that very moment, N.D. says “I wanted to display the most frightening thing for them. I also wanted to know whether they would be given a shooting order when they saw a rainbow.” Then, they found themselves climbing the campus gate and when they reached the top, they flew the Rainbow flag towards the snipers there.

They were detained as they were going to investigation

That event resulted in an investigation opened by their department. Eight friends of N.D.- mostly LGBTI+ students, who wanted to accompany N.D. to the investigation which would take place on March 25, 2021, walked from the south campus to the north campus to the place where the investigation would be conducted.

N.D. told what happened at that particular moment:

“Any group of students gathered was going out the campus, walking and going to anywhere they wanted to go. We also wanted to go to the place we wanted to go but, we sourly knew that walking and demanding rights at the same time were not appropriate for the government.”

“As we walked leaving the campus, we recognized that there was a police crowd gradually increasing behind us. Olcay- a friend of us, was saying in fear that they might be following us because of the flags.”

“As we went across to the pavement of the north campus and there was less than fifty meter long distance left, we turned back and saw that fifty policemen were running toward us – only 8 in number, to surround us. They were also getting across. We informed our friends through messaging.”

The 8-person-group followed by the police was surrounded in a short while. Police told students that the rainbow was forbidden and unless they packed the flags, they would be detained.

N.D. expressed what was told to them:

“When they came near to us, they said that they were directed by “the top” and commanded us to immediately pack all the rainbows on us and in our bags saying that rainbows were forbidden. We asked them in what legislation rainbows were admitted as a crime and got no answer. We also asked whether there was an article of law stating that police could interfere in people’s clothing and if there was, in what conditions it was appropriate. We got no answer again. Then we answered, we knew very well both the legislation and our rights. However, their problems were different: we weren’t the same, we weren’t their puppets, we were there, we were resisting and that was totally a “crime.” The only thing constituted a crime was belonging to the police officers and the ones commanding them. It was not a simple crime, either. It was a hate crime directed towards us-the ones who demanded equality.”

Students who were threatened by the police didn’t pack the rainbows. Four students were taken to the vehicle of detention.

While demanding their detained friends’ being released, they were also detained

Students who came to the incident scene for their friends just after the first detentions started to organize spontaneous protests in order to prevent police from detaining more and make their friends set free. In the talk between police and students, police said that a criminal record check (GBT) would be done and then if students scattered, the detained ones would be released but didn’t say to the crowd gathered where their friends were.

S.Y. who was there exactly at that time described how the police reacted:

“Police didn’t respond to our questions and when they did, they told lies like they would just do a criminal record check and then set free the detainees. As students, while we were worried about our friends, the police kept maintaining aggressive attitudes and misusing their authority.”

At that moment, the riot police, which were rapidly increasing in number, started intervention into students. S.Y. was one of the students whom police wanted to capture and take to the vehicle by pushing and dragging towards the north campus. S.Y. whose being injured because of the use of physical violence by the police was recorded on cameras, described the moment of detention:

“ One in civilian clothing suddenly showed me and said ‘take them.’ The policemen around me got me on the ground while I was trying to move away. There were injuries and bleeding on several parts of my body. Since I already had mental health problems,  a sudden panic attack also hit me. Roughly 10 policemen dragged me on the ground by batterring and got onto the vehicle of detention”

After the first four people, eight more were detained; N.D. summarized what happened there:

“The number of people inside the vehicle was gradually increasing. We were awaited in a place far from our friends. The anger rising within me because of the government attacking us through isolating us was replaced by the hope grow out of the voices I suddenly heard of. Even the police in the vehicle of detention were following the Bogazici Resistance live broadcasting. We were hearing strong voices of our friends and getting full of hope. Not for our possible release or our university but for the future.”

Detention before the courthouse

After a short while, students were pushed into the north campus by a further intervention by the riot police rushing over there. Students who informed the lawyers and other right defending  groups  learned that the 12-person-group coming there immediately for support was also detained by the police. The number of detainees was 24. Hundreds of students  were in the north campus and they were surrounded, as well. When students who couldn’t still learn where their friends were, united to discuss what to  do, they also learned that their friends would stay the night in prison. 

After the news, the student crowd decided to stay the night in the study room. Students who staged protests, sang songs in the study and asked their friends back during the night, decided to organize a protest in the morning in Çağlayan for their friends’ being released. 

When the students going to the Istanbul Courthouse in Çağlayan  in the early morning on March 26, 2021 arrived there, they were confronted with a police crowd. As they started to read the press release before the courthouse, they were subjected to police intervention without any prior warning, notification or caution. Police who started to push the 70-person-crowd through their shields began to make warnings when they were leading  the crowd at the rear.  At that moment,  the police force, which escalated its number to disintegrate the student groups, began to rapidly detain the protesters by forming little circles. 

At the end of the day, 45 people were detained. Detainees reported that they were subjected to torture, rear handcuffing, homophobic raping threats and hate speech.

“Rains will be replaced with rainbows!”

S.Y told  the effects of the happenings:

“In addition to being subjected to hate crimes, being subjected to that at the hands of the government was totally disastrous. We cannot live peacefully in our home country. Whereas the government has to guarantee our rights given that we are a minority group, they attack us when we fight for our rights, instead. Taking my future, health and security into account, unfortunately I cannot live in fear and terror in this country. Those happenings were quite traumatic for me, for the others there and also for all the witnesses.” 

N.D. told that “The attacks which began when the first time we heard of the appointed trustee rector, couldn’t discourage us and will not. We don’t give up fighting for our rights and we are proud of who we are. Rains will be replaced with rainbows! We won’t let the big, moustached, half-hearted, traditionalist, self-seeking and stinky skeletons attack us- the young, as well as our freedoms boundlessly.” 

The Rainbow Detentions have also become the central theme of a documentary. The documentary film which was given the name of “Alaimisema” which means “Rainbow” in Ottoman Turkish and is also  mentioned in a song saying that rains will transform to rainbows was broadcasted on Bogazici youtube channel. 

*June 2022

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