University’s historical campus appropriated by Turkish president

The historical Rectorate building in Yildiz Technical University’s Besiktas campus is being emptied on Monday morning under the orders of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, according to a report in the daily Birgun on Tuesday.

President Erdogan announced in a TV interview in May 2016 that the university’s historical Besiktas campus will be used as a presidential office and that the buildings of the campus will be allocated to the presidency.

“We want them to leave. They should get out completely and the place should become presidential property. We want the place to be used personally by the president when he is in Istanbul. This is important because of the history of those buildings,” Erdogan said on 21 May 2016 according to a report in the online news outlet Odatv.

Shipping trucks arrived on campus on Monday morning and four buildings including the rectorate building, the model workshop of the faculty of architecture and the medical building have been emptied already.

“We received news that the rectorate building and the Cukur Saray building would be emptied for renovation a while ago but what is happening is a bit hasty. We asked the general secretary of the rectorate whether they have an eviction order or not. When he participated in the forum he had said that they hadn’t received an eviction decision. But they have started to empty the buildings; they are trying to create a fait accompli,” said Ekin Can Alici, a spokesperson for the Yildiz Defence organised by students and faculty to defend the campus against appropriation by the President’s office.

“Today another meeting was held. They are saying that talks with the President’s Office are continuing. University administrators are saying that they are trying to bargain, saying ‘let’s give you half of the campus and keep the other half’. But we refuse this attitude. We have no objection against the restoration process. However, the buildings can only be emptied with the condition that they are returned to Yildiz Technical University afterwards. We consider any other process as an attack and we will resist against such an attack,” Alici continued.

Most buildings belonging to Yildiz Technical University’s Besiktas campus were part of the Yildiz Palace, used as the main palace by Ottoman Sultan Abdul Hamid II because he considered it safer than Dolmabahce Palace. Known for his conservative policies and despotic rule, Abdul Hamid II was deposed after the Young Turk revolution of 1908.

President Tayyip Erdogan was using Dolmabahce Palace as his working office in Istanbul when he was Prime Minister but stopped using it after the Gezi rebellion in 2013 and ordered the construction of a new presidential palace in Ankara.