The students are subjected to have their scholarships and loans cancelled for their support in the Boğaziçi Protests. The students and their attorneys talked about the cancellation of the scholarships and loans that caused the students forming a new solidarity network against this government policy and gave information on the process of their lawsuits.
Since May 2021 the students taking scholarships or loans from Turkey’s The Student Loans and Dormitories Institution (KYK) have not been able to receive their disbursements. The reason for cancellation stated in the notification about the termination sent to the students by this institution, was explained as their ‘involvement in anarchy and terror incidents’. However, the students are sure that the reason of this termination stemmed from their ‘support for the Boğaziçi Protests. We talked to the students and their lawyers about the termination process of the scholarships and loans, the new solidarity campaign of the students, and the judicial process for regaining their scholarships.
Scholarship cuts started in May 2021
The students noticed the cancellation of their scholarships or loans in May 2021. They found out that some of the students who were detained along the first demonstrations which were started right after the appointment of Melih Bulu as a Rector in January 2021 have lost their scholarships or loans. The reasons of these cancellations are explained with the terms ‘involvement in anarchy and terror incidents’, ‘violation of the freedom of education’ and ‘resistance,’ in the official notification of termination sent by the Turkey’s The Student Loans and Dormitories Institution (KYK).
The students started to create a new solidarity network upon learning about these cancellations. While there were 30 students had their scholarships or loans cut in June 2021, the number of the students lost their scholarships or loans rise to 103 in total by May 2022.
* An example of the official notification of termination sent by the Turkey’s The Student Loans and Dormitories Institution (KYK)
Solidarity against the cancellation of scholarships
While the students from Boğaziçi Nöbeti have collected the information of the students who lost their scholarships or loans to make a list, Boğaziçi Üniversitesi için Mezunlar Girişimi (BUIM), an alumni organisation of the university, started preparations to launch a scholarship fund for them.
These two collectives working in collaboration with each other aimed to provide scholarships for all the students with scholarship cuts due to their support to Boğaziçi demonstrations, no matter they were the student of Boğaziçi or not. However, the students and alumni have obliged to limit their support only to the students who were affected by the government’s oppression against Boğaziçi protests because the resources of this new fund were very limited.
First disbursement started in July 2021 for 30 students and the number of the grantees increased to 103 by virtue of this solidarity. 39 of 103 grantees who are benefitting from this fund, studies in Boğaziçi University, 64 of them are from different universities; and there are some students studying outside of Istanbul having their scholarships or loans terminated for the same reason.
The impact of the scholarship cuts on students: Precarious employment, low academic achievement
We asked to E.K., a student from Boğaziçi University who has regained his scholarship after winning the lawsuit, and Dilara Kaya from Istanbul University whose lawsuit is ongoing, about what was the impact of scholarship cuts and how they have dealt with this.
E.K. said that his only financial income was his scholarship and he had financial difficulties until finding an alternative scholarship.
Dilara Kaya said that her family has not been able to provide for her studies, so she had financial difficulties and had to work in precarious jobs only available for short term. She also emphasized that this has affected badly her academic success. She said she has found financial comfort after contacting to Boğaziçi Nöbeti about her situation.
Both thinks that they did not deserve to have their scholarships terminated. E.K. states that, “Saying, ‘We do not want an appointeee rector’ cannot be regarded as a legal reason to cancel our scholarships.”
Dilara Kaya reminds that they have been labelled as ‘terrorist’ for their peaceful demonstrations by using their constitutional rights, and said, “If someone needs to be punished that must not be the young people demanding democracy but the government itself for violating our constitutional rights.”
Both describes their experiences in the process of defending their rights as psychologically exhausting. Dilara Kaya said her relationship with her family has been badly affected due to her detention period and the harassment of the police, and then her university and the dormitory she was staying started a disciplinary investigation that resulted her having been expelled from the dorm. She said she had coped with these situations by having professional help and with the support of her friends.
However, E.K. said he could not receive help from a professional due to his financial difficulties and he is having hard times regaining his wellbeing.
16 students won their cases against the scholarship cuts
The court cases filed against the cancellation of the scholarships are still ongoing in addition to the newly formed solidarity network between the students and alumni of Boğaziçi University.
Lawyer Abdullah Tıkıç who has represented those students in their trials explained the legal reasons for termination of scholarships or loans as follows:
“According to the Regulation of Scholarships and Loans of The Student Loans and Dormitories Institution (KYK), the reasons for scholarship cancellation can only be low academic achievement, dropping out of the university, taking permission or suspending to study, closure of the educational institution, giving up the scholarship, being expelled from the institution’s dormitories, being sentenced with a final judgment, and having a disciplinary penalty by the educational institutions.”
Tıkıç emphasizes that none of those reasons have been presented by the defendant institution in the lawsuits:
“There is no legal way to terminate a scholarship or a loan other than these reasons which were clearly defined in the articles of the regulation. Taking students into custody and taking their statements about an incident cannot pave the way for termination of their scholarships or loans. Even facing charges and being referred to the court are not enough. Termination of a scholarship for a reason not associated with the student’s academic performance can only occur in case of the student must have been convicted with a final sentence of imprisonment for six months or more.”
Tıkıç explained how the scholarship cuts happening despite this legal framework:
“There are some issues about here. First, the Ministry of Youth and Sports defined being taking into custody while exercising the constitutional rights such as freedom of assembly and demonstration and freedom of expression and free speech as ‘anarchy and terror.’ This kind of labelling means ignoring the constitution and the civic rights supported by the laws that were manifestation of our public will. Second, The Student Loans and Dormitories Institution (KYK) terminates the scholarship and loans by taking into consideration of an article that was become obsolete. This obsolete article has been replaced by a new legislation that was published in the Official Gazette on June 14, 2008. Therefore, The Student Loans and Dormitories Institution’s cancellation of scholarships does not align with the present regulations, and it is inconsistent with the doctrine of ‘lex posterior derogate priori’ (the younger law overrides the older law) in legal theory. It is not legal to take an old law into consideration as a reason for a criminal offence.”
Tıkıç said that the lawsuits against the termination of scholarships and loans filed by the students have been concluded in students’ favour. He notified that while scholarship or loan payments should start within 30 days at the latest after the cases concluded, there are delays in regaining the disbursements.
“When these court orders would not been implemented, there is a possibility of starting a new trial for non-implementation of these court orders, but this means opening new cases and having extra burden for follow-ups. This possibility would be a waste of time and resources not only for the students but also for our state institutions.”
Solidarity for autonomous university continues
Lawyer Tıkıç said, “We wish that The Student Loans and Dormitories Institution will give up scholarship cancellations on the grounds of an obsolete article because implementing this article is not legal, and the verdicts from the recent cases need to be regarded as precedent cases, and these verdicts need to be taken into effect immediately.”
E.K. is getting ready to collect retroactively his unpaid scholarship instalments with interest rate as the winner of his case. The court case of Dilara Kaya still continues. These two students said that they will never give up on demanding the autonomy of the universities. Dilara explains her determination as this: “Our dream is having universities where the authority belongs to organs of the university, not to a single appointee trustee.”