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Catching Up Quickly with the ODTU (Middle East Technical University) Protest

January 17, 2011

Apologies for the delay here at Istanbul Alti headquarters as real life and day jobs have a nasty habit of getting in our way. We’ll try and do a recap of some issues that we’ve missed in the past week in order to get caught back up to speed next week.

Student protests in Turkey are not new experiences, and are not all that shocking in a historical context. So when you hear that 500 students are protesting the AKP in Ankara, realize that we’re not talking about a Green Revolution or anything. We’re talking about the grand history of Turkish students here.

The most epic example, of course, is the car bomb that was supposed to get Robert Komer, American ambassador to Turkey, in 1969. Sinan Cemgil and Taylan Ozgur are connected to that attack, as is the illustrious bogeyman Deniz Gezmis. Komer was kind of not the greatest dude around, but that’s hardly a reason to try and kill him. Fortunately, though, an Ozgur impersonator runs a blog and details the event for us.

Maureen Freely’s Enlightenment also discusses the hilarity and hijinx that comes with being a leftist rebel in the times of Turkish troubles. So if you’re into that sort of thing, you should pick up that book. My review is here.

And while bombings look to be a thing of the past, rage against authority figures still stands. Ibrahim al-Marashi was vilified as a CIA stooge thanks to MI6 attaching his Ph.D. thesis to their reports when he was at Bogazici. He was (and still is, of course) a whole lot more innocent then Komer, but still, sometimes students just need a scapegoat. There were also massive “Bizim Kurtimiz” pro-Kurdish protests at the time, which is my lazy and transparent way to foreshadow my coverage of the KCK ruckus when I get to it next week.

And even today, there are plenty of protests, mostly targeted at the AKP and the university rectors who run their public universities like businesses. The issue here has little to do with Right Vs. Wrong, it’s just students protesting whoever is in power. It’s what students do. It’s why we like them so much. It’s why Shapiro in Columbia completely looks in place at ODTU, complete with cheap cigarette and moustache.

Actually, there is a serious Polat Alemdar resemblance kindasortaI’mdtiredok

Late last year there were plenty similar protests, including the now-iconic game of Long Donkey (for once, the English name is far more awesome then the Turkish ‘uzuneşek’) that we covered here thanks to Ismail K.

Also, a great google search. Trust me.

All of which is useless, of course, without an alternative to AKP. I am, shall we say, not AKP’s voting base. But there just aren’t many other viable options out there in a democratic process. No other party even really stands for anything. The prospect (and welcomeness, of course) of a coup is completely in left field at this point. Students yell, foreigners yell, Kilicdaroglu yells…and yet nobody has come up with an AKP alternative that will be a) viable and b) more attractive.

So it’s fun to keep track of student protests as a data point. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves by labeling it a “crying for change.”

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