Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has dismissed a university rector – months after his appointment led to widespread protests.
Melih Bulu was removed from his post as rector of Boğaziçi University in Istanbul after a presidential decree was issued early on Thursday.
No reason has been given for his dismissal.
The decision to appoint Bulu to one of Istanbul’s most prestigious universities in January led to daily protests by students and hundreds of arrests.
The academic was a former political candidate from Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and was deemed insufficiently qualified for the position.
Students and faculties at Boğaziçi University had demonstrated against his appointment, denouncing his links to the Turkish government and demanding the university be allowed to elect its own president.
In response, police officers even handcuffed the entrance gate to the university to prevent students from entering the campus.
After protests began peacefully, violent clashes soon broke out with the police, and hundreds of people were detained at the university, as well as at other rallies held in solidarity. Most have since been released from custody.
President Erdoğan generated controversy by describing the student protestors as “terrorists”, while the country’s interior minister Süleyman Soylu labelled the demonstrators “LGBT deviants”.
Officials from the United States, the United Nations and the European Union had criticised Turkey’s handling of the protests.
But Turkish security forces’ actions dismissed the accusations, saying there were attempts by terrorist organisations to infiltrate and provoke the rallies.
“No one has the right to attempt to intervene in Turkey’s affairs,” the foreign ministry said.
But Thursday’s decision to dismiss Bulu from his position represents an unusual step backwards for Erdoğan, who does not usually pay much attention to critics and had personally appointed the rector himself.
Bulu’s deputy, Mehmet Naci Inci, was named acting rector until the position is permanently refilled.