TURKEY

Turkish police ‘flash political symbols’ as they storm Ankara campus

Turkish police brutally broke up protests on multiple university campuses on Thursday, including Ankara University, where officers were seen flashing a four-finger hand sign. According to students at the protest, this was unmistakably the four-finger salute regularly used by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his supporters. .

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Turkish police brutally broke up protests on multiple university campuses on Thursday, including Ankara University, where officers were seen flashing a four-finger hand sign. According to students at the protest, this was unmistakably the four-finger salute regularly used by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his supporters.

The four-finger salute became a symbol of international support for the Muslim Brotherhood after July 2013’s Rabaa massacre in Egypt. It is thought to have originated in Turkey, and Erdogan has regularly used it during his party’s political rallies.

A photo showing police officers at Ankara University flashing four fingers in the air is now widely circulating on social networks and on Turkish news sites. A few of the officers also hold up one finger. While some online commenters believe the hand gestures could be innocent – perhaps used by the police to give each other signals – most see it as a sign of allegiance to Erdogan’s party. Our Observer confirms this.

“They were using it as a sign of victory, as if saying ‘We’re an Islamic country, and you can’t fight Islam’”

Yusuf (not his real name) is an Ankara University student activist.

Several hundred of us, both Turks and Kurds, students and professors, were protesting just outside the university campus on Thursday. We were denouncing the fact that our government is standing idly by while Kobane [a Kurdish city right across the border from Turkey, in Syria] is getting attacked by the Islamic State group jihadists. The police showed up in riot gear and sprayed us with water cannons, so we retreated onto the campus grounds, and they followed us in.

Police mandhandle protesters at Ankara University on Thursday. Video by Alp Eren Kaya/Görünüm Gazetesi.

They chased us around, insulted us, beat us, and arrested 25 people [20 students and five lecturers]. All along, they were flashing the four-finger salute. They flashed it at us, and they flashed it at students who weren’t participating in the protest, just watching. Some also put up one finger, which is an Islamic gesture that means “there is only one Allah”. They flashed these signs repeatedly, like a symbol of victory. They certainly weren’t using it to organise themselves – some people claimed online that there were four groups of police officers, and that that’s what they were communicating, but if so, where was number 2? Or 3?

To me and to other protesters, who are in favor of secularism, this behavior translated to, “We are an Islamic country, and you can’t fight against Islam; Islam always wins.”

“After Gezi, I’m not surprised by anything the police do anymore”

While it’s the first time I’ve seen the police do this, it doesn’t surprise me one bit. I participated in last year’s Gezi protests, where the police brutally attacked the people, so nothing about the Turkish police surprises me anymore.

Dozens of Ankara University professors have signed a statement denouncing the university’s rector for not just allowing, but actually asking the police to come onto the campus. They have obtained a message that the rector sent to the local authorities before the protest, a copy of which is below. It asks them to take “immediate precautionary measures indoors and outdoors [on the campus] as well as to deploy a sufficient number of police officers indoors."