Student Movement In Turkey
by Emre Can Sarısayın

From the perspective of students, one can safely bring forward YÖK (High Education Institution), which was established during the military coup d’état in 1980, as the main problem concerning education in Turkey. It regulates the working mechanisms of the universities in the benefit of the government, but does very little –if anything at all– for the problems that students face.

One of the primary demands of the students is the right to education free of charge. But on the contrary, there is an ongoing process of commercialization of the universities; the number of private universities is increasing while the budget for the public universities is decreasing. The other major issue is the language of education: Kurds (and the other minorities) don’t have the right to education in their own language. As a reaction, in some universities students organize Kurdish language and literature workshops and ask for courses in Kurdish.

During last semester, there was an increase in the number of student protests. At first, the protests were against the government policies: students organized demonstrations against the prime minister visiting the universities, they threw eggs to another minister while he was giving a talk in their university. Later on, the protests focused on another issue as well, the problem of representation. They protested against the closed meetings of the prime minister and the rectors, claiming that they too had the right to attend to a meeting concerning their education and be their own representatives. In one of the demonstrations, a pregnant student lost her child because of a blow from the police. This incident carried the discussion on the student movement to another level in the media. The protesting students are not just concerned with the problems in education, but mostly with economic and political issues in Turkey. Students get organized because of various other reasons such as minority conflicts, Islamic government policies, gender discrimination and sexism, and working class struggle.

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