University falls vic­tim to Er­do­gan’s bat­tle with ex-prime min­is­ter

Arab News - - News Middle East - Menekse Tokyay Ankara

Is­tan­bul’s Se­hir University, founded by Ah­met Davu­to­glu, the former prime min­is­ter and ex-ally of Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan, was shut down on Mon­day af­ter an overnight pres­i­den­tial de­cree.

“With this sig­na­ture, Pres­i­dent Er­do­gan has gone down in history as a politi­cian who shut down a university,” Davu­to­glu said dur­ing a press con­fer­ence on Tues­day.

The move had been ex­pected fol­low­ing the gov­ern­ment seizure of the BISAV (Foun­da­tion for Sciences and Arts) or­ga­ni­za­tion be­hind the university ear­lier this year over a fail­ure to pay back loans. The university failed to pay staff salaries and util­ity bills.

The overnight move high­lights ris­ing ten­sions be­tween the Turk­ish gov­ern­ment and lead­ers of break­away par­ties.

Er­do­gan de­liv­ered the in­au­gu­ral speech at the open­ing of the university 10 years ago.

The university’s as­sets and bank ac­counts were frozen by a Turk­ish court shortly af­ter Davu­to­glu launched the new Fu­ture Party, which aims to at­tract con­ser­va­tive and re­li­gious vot­ers.

De­spite the crack­down on the university he founded, the former premier con­tin­ued his crit­i­cism of the rul­ing gov­ern­ment.

“They can walk around with ar­ro­gance af­ter hav­ing shown how much they are ca­pa­ble of, but they will pay the price of this crime in the pub­lic con­scious­ness and in the scales of jus­tice,” he said on Tues­day. Davu­to­glu also re­ceived sup­port from the leader of an­other break­away party, DEVA (Rem­edy Party), re­cently founded by ex-econ­omy chief Ali Baba­can.

“This process


com­pletely un­law­ful and is the re­sult of the rul­ing gov­ern­ment’s hos­tile stance,” Baba­can tweeted on Tues­day. Muzaf­fer Senel, a pro­fes­sor of in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions at Se­hir University, is search­ing for an aca­demic post af­ter the university he con­trib­uted to for many years was shut down. “The university has been turned into a tar­get be­cause ev­ery­body en­joyed aca­demic free­dom there for a decade,” he told Arab News.

“The university was al­ways dis­tanced from the rul­ing gov­ern­ment. Its man­age­ment and aca­demics didn’t take any po­lit­i­cal po­si­tions. They only opted for a mo­ral and eth­i­cal stance,” he added. Se­hir University hosted hun­dreds of for­eign and Turk­ish aca­demics with a wide range of po­lit­i­cal ten­den­cies, in­clud­ing both right and left, and na­tion­al­ist and so­cial­ist points of view. More than 7,000 stu­dents grad­u­ated from the university, in­clud­ing many from the Gulf re­gion. “We left be­hind a shiny ref­er­ence point about how the university should look like, based on univer­sal val­ues, and we are proud of it,” Senel said.

Berk Esen, a po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst from Bilkent University in Ankara, said: “The gov­ern­ment’s de­ci­sion to shut down the university is clearly a vin­dic­tive move to pun­ish Er­do­gan’s op­po­nents, par­tic­u­larly Davu­to­glu.” He added: “As a re­sult of the au­to­c­ra­ti­za­tion process in Turkey, the cost of tol­er­a­tion for dissent has gone up sub­stan­tially. The pres­i­dent is send­ing a clear mes­sage that any sup­port given for splin­ter par­ties in the con­ser­va­tive camp will be pun­ished se­verely.”

Se­hir University’s found­ing mo­tive was to con­sol­i­date and strengthen the grow­ing con­ser­va­tive in­tel­li­gentsia in Turkey and abroad.

Sahir web­site

Se­hir University’s found­ing mo­tive was to con­sol­i­date and strengthen the grow­ing con­ser­va­tive in­tel­li­gentsia in Turkey and abroad.

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