A video that appeared on the Internet on Thursday showing a bigoted attack against a number of headscarved students at the Middle East Technical University (ODTÜ) campus in Ankara sparked public outrage and led to concerns over lingering discrimination despite a government move to remove a long-standing regulation that prohibited students from wearing the headscarf on university campuses.
The incident took place at the ODTÜ campus this week.
New students eligible to enter ODTÜ after succeeding at the university entrance exam had thronged the campus to enroll during the registration period.
A group of new students carrying banners that read “Cemaate karşı” (meaning Against Hizmet -- a movement known for its activities in the field of education and culture) harassed a number of headscarved students who were awaiting registration on the campus.
While the group chanted slogans against Hizmet, they intensified their harassment of the headscarved students until finally the victims of the verbal attack decided to leave the site.
When the victims began to leave the site of the attack, the aggressive students followed them amid thunderous applause from their friends.
The incident exploded on social media and sparked outrage as it indicates that polarization in the country has reached a dangerous level.
Headscarved students had been subjected to a long-standing discriminatory regulation at universities banning the headscarf.
The government moved to remove the ban three years ago and the Higher Education Board (YÖK) was tasked to introduce a new regulation, paving the way for wearing the headscarf at universities. The board circulated a notice of the lifting of the ban that year.
Despite the move by YÖK, many universities resisted lifting the old regulation until last year, and the ban has persisted in practice on some campuses despite the lack of a legal basis.
In the meantime, the ODTÜ Alumni Association (ODTÜ-MEBİVA) strongly condemned the attack in a statement released on its website on Thursday.
The statement called on university officials to investigate the incident.
Expressing outrage and frustration over the indifference of university officials regarding fascist acts, the association says the university's name is being tarnished.