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AFP photo

Riot police in Ankara have broken up a protest by students who gathered today in the city’s central Kızılay square to denounce the clear-cutting of trees to make way for a controversial road that will pass through the campus of Middle East Technical University (ODTÜ).

Hundreds of students were preparing to march to the ODTÜ campus and the Higher Education Board’s (YÖK) building in the Bilkent neighborhood with trees in their hands, but police did not allow the demonstration to take place.

Scuffles erupted between police officers and students. Some 24 students who formed a human chain were detained, Doğan news agency reported. Some of the trees that were carried by the demonstrators were destroyed during the police crackdown.

Due to its symbolism for being one of the most politically engaged universities, many criticized Ankara Metropolitan Municipality’s decision to build a road on ODTÜ land as a political move. ODTÜ’s campus is also known as being one of the greenest and most beautiful areas of the capital.

The project threatens to destroy 3,000 trees, many of which cannot be replanted anywhere else. The construction that started on the last night of the Feast of the Sacrifice holiday was also decried, as it was performed without the consent of the university.

ODTÜ initially authorized the construction of the road, choosing a more conciliatory position, but the university’s board has gradually toughened its stance, vowing to take legal action against the municipality’s allegedly unlawful measures.

Demonstrations have been continuing since September, but the police have answered by staging repeated crackdowns that sparked a nationwide outcry. In one such solidarity protest on Sept. 10, 22-year-old Antakya resident Ahmet Atakan was allegedly killed by a police tear gas capsule.

Source: Hurriyetdailynews.com