30 years ago on 6 November 1981, the Council of Higher Education (YÖK) was established by the putschists of the military coup on 12 September 1980. On Sunday (30 October), students in Ankara marked the 30th anniversary of the institution with protests.
Hundreds of students from various universities in Turkey's capital joined the protest action that was organized by the Genç-Sen Students Youth Union in cooperation with the Youth of the People's Democratic Congress and the All Progressive Youth Association (TÜM-İGD), a socialist youth organization in Turkey. The demonstrators met at the Ankara Kolej Square at noon on Sunday (30 October) and walked to the Sakarya Square carrying banners that read "We rise against YÖK and its system".
The protest was scheduled one week ahead of the actual anniversary since 6 November falls within this year's Muslim festival of sacrifices. The students chanted slogans like "YÖK will be removed, the police will come and liberate the universities together with us" and "Equal, free-of-charge, scientific education in the mother language". A press release was issued on Sakarya Square at the end of the protest march.
The joint statement was made on behalf of the co-operating organizations. It was claimed that YÖK was the outcome of the military coup on 12 September 1980 and that the institution has being swayed above the universities like the "sword of Damocles" ever since. The students criticized YÖK as the establishment that turned the education system into a money matter. They emphasized that the yearly increase in students' fees made it difficult for children of workers to enter university.
The students took a stance against the education becoming more and more "expensive, oppressive, racist and sexist". They referred to the recent arrests and investigations as means of intimidation and concluded their press statement by stressing that they would take YÖK to account until it was going to be brought down.
Researcher and writer Temel Demirer has continuously supported the students in their struggle and also during their protest actions. Subsequent to the press release Demirer rose to speak and drew attention to hundreds of riot police officers around Sakarya Square. He noted that this dominant presence of security forces was significant for the state's fear of the students' fight against YÖK and against the imperialism of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). Finally, Demirer pointed to the students' protests in Chile and emphasized that the situation in Turkey was soon going to develop just the same way.
After Demirer's speech, the students brought their protest to a peaceful end by singing folk songs and performing traditional folk dances. (GK/HK/VK)
* Picture: Eda Serttürk