Demonstrators run away from tear gas during a gathering in solidarity with university students in Istanbul. Reuters
Turkey's president has rebuffed US and European criticism of his government’s handling of weeks-long demonstrations at a top Istanbul university as he has ordered the establishment of two new departments in the country’s most prestigious university, which has been rocked by weeks of protests.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s decision, published in the Official Gazette Saturday, says law and communications faculties are to be launched in Bogazici University.
Erdogan also vowed to show "no mercy” to protesters who use violence, and reiterated his determination not to allow the demonstrations spiral into mass anti-government protests like those that rocked the country in 2013.
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks during an event. File photo
He accused his political opponents of being behind a month of student protests rattling his 18-year rule.
Erdogan and other government officials drew condemnation over the security forces' often heavy-handed handling of the demonstrations and using anti-LGBT rhetoric to decry the protests, after an artwork depicting Islam’s most holiest site with LGBT flags was displayed at the university, according to The Associated Press.
Students and faculty members at Bogazici University have been demonstrating in protest of Erdogan’s Jan. 1 appointment as rector of an academic with links to his ruling party. They have been calling on rector Melih Bulu to step down and for the university to be allowed to select its own president.
A woman reacts as riot police officers detain a student during a protest in Ankara, Turkey, on Friday. Burhan Ozbilici/AP
Some of the protests have led to clashes with police, resulting in hundreds of arrests — although most of the detainees were later released. Protests have been staged in the capital, Ankara, as well as Izmir and other cities in support of the Bogazici students.
Speaking to reporters as he left a mosque following traditional Friday prayers, Erdogan rejected criticism from the US and from EU officials.
"I will say this to America: aren’t you ashamed of the incidents in the United States before the elections?” Erdogan said, in refence to the violence on Capitol Hill. "Racism went over the roof,” he continued, alluding to anti-racism protests that swept the US last year.
He also called on France to "sort out” protests by the yellow vest movement which has been calling for economic justice.
Turkish riot police block a street during a protest in Ankara. AFP
Police have detained hundreds of demonstrators at the university and in solidarity protests elsewhere, some taken away following raids of their homes. Most were later released.
Top government officials have said terrorist groups are provoking the protests, and Erdogan has called the protesting students terrorists.Officials from the United States, the United Nations and the European Union have criticized Turkey’s handling of the protests as well as a series of homophobic comments that were made by Erdogan and other officials while denouncing the demonstrations.
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