Sunday, January 22, 2012

The president prevented the pepper gas purchase

[From the daily Radikal; January 18, 2012]

This newspaper article signals some more positive changes at Hacettepe University campus, while revealing some more horrible facts: that the police requested the list of the names of students who protested against Uludere massacre [also covered here, on GIT - North America], which suggests potential criminalization intent of student protests against this massacre; that the previous president of the university had opened a bid for a contract to pepper gas the students, among others.

In the last month “new things” have been happening at Hacettepe University, where students had been punished because they were being vocal about their transportation and accommodation problems and professors had been under investigation because they were asking the government to revoke the said punishment of students. The new president of the university Murat Tuncer refused to give the police the list of the names of students who had participated in a protest against the massacre at Uludere. He says he will never give the names… There will no longer be investigations related to participation in protests and association… From now on putting up posters and distributing pamphlets will be allowed... The contract formerly in place for the university to purchase gas bombs, shields and masks for “security” purposes has been repealed…The new president held a three-hour-long meeting with the students, which he will repeat every month… The role of the president in these hope-inspiring developments is undeniable, and yet, the students say that this democratic environment is not granted and remind their own contribution through years of active struggle. They also state that they will make sure that these new measures are followed-through.

Following the protest at the university in the wake of the massacre in Uludere the police forces had written a letter to the presidency asking for the names and images of the [involved] students. President Murat Tuncer denied the demand of the police and, instead, asked the representatives of the student organizations to attend a meeting with him. In the meeting,which took place on January 6, [Tuncer] assured the students that their action was a democratic right and that from now on “lists of activist students” will not be handed to the police. He added that the students would now be given a voice in the university council and that meetings with the students would be held second week of each month.

Gas Bomb via Contract!
Some of these promises have already become reality. Previously opened investigations have been repealed. The curfew at the university dorms has been pushed later to 2 a.m. The first meeting of the president with the students took place on January 14; therein nearly 100 students expressed their criticism of and demands from the university. Ayse Kavas, Sociology major[at Hacettepe University] and spokesperson for the Ankara section of the “Youth Take it to Streets” Initiative, recounts the positive effects of the [recent] actions: “In our fight for this we have been subjected to [police] investigation for years. Students will play an active part in the implementation of the new measures. Students, together with the General Secretariat, will finalize the decisions and make a declaration to the whole university. The participation of students in this process is a key issue. I hope this sets an example to all universities.” As Ozgur Bozkurt, a Student Collectives member about whom six investigations were opened only last year put: “This is a preclusive step and it is positive. We will follow it.” A junior from the Opposition of Youth, Pinar Alisan, on the other hand, seems to remain cautious: “Alongside freedom and democracy is created the myth of a president. Putting up posters and [distributing] pamphlets were rights that we already had; they shouldn’t be regarded as [if they were newly] granted.”

The changes undertaken by the new president of Hacettepe University also revealed a tragic fact. When Tuncer found out about a contract that was set up for purchasing gas bombs, gas masks and shields with the excuse of “security needs,” he superseded all work related to this [contract]. Criticizing a university’s bid to acquiring gas [bombs] through a security contract, “It is unthinkable for me to use gas against my own student[s],” he added.

Who is Tuncer?
He graduated from Istanbul University Medical School in1980. He became a pediatrician in 1984 and a pediatric hematology specialist in1990. He became an associate professor in 1987, and became a full professor in1994. Having served as the Head of the Ministry of Health’s Department of Fight with Cancer, Tuncer became second place in the elections for university president with 507 votes. He was put in the first place in the list that the Council of Higher Education sent to the President Abdullah Gül and Gül appointed him as the president of Hacettepe.

The university demanded pepper gas
When the university administration opens the bids for contracts this year, it noticed the pepper gas and gas masks in last year’s document listing the terms of purchase contracts. It cancelled out these items on this year’s document. Last year, the university purchased pepper gas, shield and gas mask with the permission from the Governor’s Office of Ankara. This permission was given for the first time and only to Hacettepe University.

For the Turkish version of this piece, please see: