ISTANBUL (AP) — Hundreds of demonstrators gathered in Istanbul on Saturday for anti-government protests, demanding amid a heavy police presence the reversal of recent decisions by Turkey's president that affect students, women and the LGBT community.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan issued a surprise decree a week ago ending Turkey's participation in a landmark treaty aimed at protecting women from violence. About a thousand women and allies turned up Saturday to protest the country's withdrawal from the Council of Europe’s Istanbul Convention.
Hundreds of students also held another protest against the appointment of a new rector at Turkey’s most prestigious university.
Their protests began in January after Erdogan named an academic with ties to Turkey's ruling party as rector of Bogazici University. Students and professors maintain Melih Bulu's appointment undermines academic freedom.
Student Zehra Aydemir, 22, said the protestors have clear demands and goals, starting with Bulu's resignation.
“We will lift police blockades at universities. We will carry through rectorship elections at universities with the participation of all the university’s components, its academics and students,” Aydemir said.
The students and women protesting Saturday also demanded an end to anti-LGBT actions amid growing intolerance from the government and police. The government has said one of the reasons Turkey pulled out of the Istanbul Convention is because it thinks the treaty attempts to “normalize homosexuality.”
Twelve students were detained this week for unfurling rainbow flags at Bogazici University, and dozens more were held Friday outside an Istanbul courthouse while demonstrating in support of their peers. A majority of them were later released.
“Unfortunately in Turkey today, if you are an LGBTI person or a woman, it’s very difficult for justice to be on your side,” Busra Cabuk, 23, said. “I” stands for intersex in the context of LGBT rights.
“This is why we are worried and we are scared, but we are making noise to not give up on our rights," said Cabuk, who wore a rainbow mask. "This is why we are here as many women and LGBTI-pluses.”
Associated Press writer Zeynep Bilginsoy contributed.