Can fear explain the loathing that the victims of this ‘academic cleansing’ are exposed to, often by their own colleagues? Could insecurity justify the complicity?
It was a “call for papers” like all others. “On behalf of the Turkish Political Economy Society (TPES)”, said the organizers of the 5th TPES Interdisciplinary Workshop on Turkey and Latin America in Comparative Perspective, “we would be happy if you would consider submitting an abstract and help us spread the word by forwarding the CfP to other scholars who may be interested.”
Many probably did, among them Yasemin Yılmaz and Orçun Selçuk, two PhD candidates from The City University of New York and Florida International University respectively, who saw this as an opportunity to share their work with and get feedback from their peers and senior academics in Turkey and beyond.
Both received a positive reply from the organizing committee on 27 April 2017 and were invited to present their papers at the two-day workshop that was going to take place on 20-21 July at Koç University, Istanbul under the auspices of the Center for Research on Globalization, Peace, and Democratic Governance (GLODEM). “We are unable to offer any funding for travel and accommodation”, the generic invitation letter stated, but neither Yasemin nor Orçun cared as they were happy to be part of a scholarly event in one of Turkey’s most prestigious universities, in front of an audience that included scholars from other, equally prestigious, universities such as Sabancı, Bilkent and Özyeğin, to name but a few.
The tentative programme of the workshop they were sent about a month later had their names on as presenters and asked them to submit their full papers on ‘Self-Coups and Presidential Power Grabs in Peru and Turkey’(Selçuk) and ‘Elite Interests and Media Suppression: The Cases of Turkey and Venezuela’ (Yılmaz) by 6 July.
The sackings and university closures are now starting to take their toll on Turkish scientific output. According to a study by British–Turkish academic collective, Freedom for Academia, the number of papers published by the country’s universities fell 28% since the attempted coup last year to 27,600. While the study relies on extrapolation for 2017, one of its authors, Mesut Erzurumluoglu, says the figures are convincing. ‘We think that we may be wrong, but only by being too conservative. The decline in numbers may be even larger,’ says Erzurumluoglu, a postdoc associate at the University of Leicester. The study reveals that the greatest fall in publications was seen in the social sciences, followed by medicine. Chemistry publications fell just over 5%.
‘You don’t have to be a genius to see that there’s going to be a huge brain drain,’ adds Erzurumluoglu, who said that the positions left by academics who have been sacked, imprisoned or who have fled are being filled by ‘cronies’. ‘This is going to be a problem in Turkey for years to come, because these people will pick other cronies, and there will be no scientific ethic.’ He adds that the study will be repeated in the coming years to keep tabs on Turkey’s research output.
A total of 7,563 people were dismissed with a new post-coup emergency decree, released only a day before the first anniversary of the July 15, 2016 coup attempt.
The government decree, numbered 692, dismissed 7,563 people including 302 academics, from their jobs.
In the year since the attempted coup in Turkey, a “staggering” number of academics have faced criminal investigations, detentions, prosecutions, mass dismissal, expulsion and restrictions on travel, according to an open letter to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, signed by Robert Quinn, executive director of Scholars at Risk or SAR, the New York-based scholar rescue network, who demanded a reversal of the measures.
On 13 July, 302 more academics were dismissed from their jobs under a new decree under the crackdown ordered after the failed coup attempt a year ago. On 10 July more than 40 academics and university workers were arrested at two Istanbul universities.
Quinn said the evidence strongly suggests academics are facing retaliation for the non-violent exercise of academic freedom, freedom of expression, and freedom of association.
He said: “These actions are not only attacks on individuals, but on the higher education sector in Turkey and on Turkish society generally. If not quickly reversed, these actions will undermine Turkey’s status as an international centre for learning and intellectual exchange.”
Quinn urged Erdogan to “direct all necessary steps to reverse these dangerous and destructive actions”, in which more than 7,500 academics have been targeted and nearly 60,000 students have been displaced.
LONDON — Akin Ipek, one of Turkey’s richest men, was staying in the Park Tower Hotel in London when the police raided his television network in Istanbul. The raid was national news, so Mr. Ipek opened his laptop and watched an unnerving spectacle: an attack on his multibillion-dollar empire, in real time.
It was an oddly cinematic showdown. Through a combination of shouting and persuasion, the network’s news editor convinced the officers that they should leave, then locked himself in the basement control room with a film crew. For the next seven and a half hours, until the police returned, the news editor spoke into a camera and took calls on his iPhone. One was from Mr. Ipek, who denounced the government’s action as illegal.
“I was shocked and angry,” Mr. Ipek said in a recent interview in London. “But I thought they would leave after a couple days. There was no reason to stay.”
Actually, the government never left, and the events were the start of a personal cataclysm for Mr. Ipek. His station, Bugun TV, was taken off the air a few hours after that phone call, on Oct. 28, 2015. His entire conglomerate of 22 companies, Koza Ipek, is now owned and operated by the state.
he crackdown on the freedom of expression and dissent since the failed coup in July 15 last year has reached epic proportions in Turkey.
The effects of the continuous severe blows to journalism is by now well known. Another area where the oppressive measures intensely focus is the academia, where the very existence of independent research is endangered to maximum.
What are the effects of the state of emergency, which was launched in July 20 last year, on the universities so far?
”The Justice and Development Party (AKP) government under the strict rule of Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has sacked more than 8,000 critical academics and led to 28 percent decrease in academic output since the failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016, showed a report released by a London-based research group focusing on the sufferings of the academicians in Turkey under the successive state of emergencies”
Reported the Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF), a monitoring website based in Sweden.
The survey is done by Freedom for Academia, a group of British and Turkish academics/researchers willing to lend a helping hand to their colleagues and bring the injustices to the attention of the global public and academic circles. They also aim to liaise and cooperate with other groups believing in similar principles and help them help other persecuted academics.
Here are the details, as reported by SCF:
”The study, conducted by Freedom for Academia, has shown the short-term effects of the large-scale purges carried out by the autocratic Erdoğan regime targeting Turkey-based academics. According to the study, purge of more than 8,000 academicians in Turkey has resulted in many universities and academic departments to close – leaving many students without lecturers, many hospitals to be left with a lack of key personnel, and many scientific projects funded by the state to come to an abrupt end.
The survey has also shown that the large-scale dismissal of academics has had effects on the research outputs of Turkey-based academics with a significant reduction (~28% on average) in the research output of Turkey-based academics in 2017 regardless of academic field. The study has also stated that the long-term effects of the draconian measures taken by the government on Turkey-based research and academia remains to be seen.
Stressing that the AKP government wasted no time in using the coup attempt as an excuse to suppress all dissent, the survey figures out how the government has purged tens of thousands of public employees including academics.
“All those purged lost their right to work in any public institution and had their passports cancelled – thus could not travel abroad to find work. Most of those purged were either imprisoned and/or detained for at least a certain amount of time. Some have even had their assets seized and/or bank accounts frozen. Gross human rights violations were reported, with concrete evidence for physical, psychological, and emotional torture in prisons,” said the survey.
With the numerous executive decrees over 8,000 academicians have been purged, Freedom for Academia stated that “Apart from the universities that have been shut down entirely, these large-scale purges have led to many academic departments to close and leaving many students without lecturers, many hospitals left with a lack of key personnel as many medical academics were also serving part-time, and many projects funded by the state to come to an abrupt end. Consequently, these changes have had negative psychological, emotional, and social effects on the population, but also had an impact on the research output of Turkey-based academics.”
The survey identified there was a significant decrease of 28 percent on average in the number of research outputs of Turkey-based academics in 2017, regardless of the academic field.
According to the survey results the most affected fields were the Social Sciences, and Medicine, with a total reduction of 44 percent and 36 percent in the number of published articles by Turkey-based academics, respectively.
Freedom for Academia has stated that this sharp decline in the research output in 2017 compared to 2016 becomes more striking when 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 figures are brought into the equation, as a stable upward trend in the research output of Turkey-based academics was observed in this time period (excluding 2017) – with, on average of 5 percent more articles being published compared to the previous year, every year, across all fields.
Before the purges Turkey had about 150,000 academics, including by 22,000 Professors, about 14,500 Associate Professors and about 34,000 Assistant Professors. With a series of decrees, the AKP government purged as of May 15, 2017 over 8,300 academics, which is 6 percent of all academicians in Turkey.
Emphasizing over the fact that the AKP government has mainly targeted influential critics including prominent academics such as 82-year-old Prof. Öget Öktem-Tanör (Neuropsychology), Prof. Sedat Laçiner (Political Sciences), Prof. Mehmet Altan (Economics), Prof. İbrahim Kaboğlu (Constitutional Law), Prof. A. Özdemir Aktan (General Surgery), Prof. Melek Göregenli (Social Psychology), Prof. Ayşe Gül Yılgör (Economics and Administration), Prof. Haluk A. Savaş (Psychotherapy) and Prof. Ayşegül Jale Saraç (Physiotherapy), Freedom for Academia said that this figure is likely to be an underestimate within the more senior positions.
Freedom for Academia has also warned that, “it is conceivable that the long-term effects may be more catastrophic for Turkey-based research and science because many academics who have not been sacked still fear for their jobs (and imprisonment, as mentioned above, many who have been sacked are in prison) as many of them are being monitored by overzealous university rectors and deans. Carrying out research has therefore become secondary to numerous academics, and many who have the capacity are looking for jobs abroad; and this is bound to lead to a ‘brain drain’, detrimental to the country’s higher education and science systems.”
According to a report by the state-run Anadolu news agency on May 28, quoting Bekir Bozdağ, Turkish Minister of Justice, 154,694 individuals have been arrested and 50,136 have been sent to pretrial detention due to alleged Gülenist and/or PKK links since the failed coup attempt.
Staggering’ scale of persecution of Turkish academia condemned by scholars’ group
More than 300 academics have been sacked and dozens arrested in the latest purge of Turkey’s university system.
Shortly after hundreds of thousands of people joined a mass rally in Istanbul on 16 July against Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the government announced that it had arrested almost 900 people over the past week, including 72 university staff.
On 13 July, the state announced that some 302 academics had been sacked from their jobs for their alleged links to the Gülen movement, which is blamed for last year’s failed military coup. The exiled Islamic cleric Fethullah Gülen, who is based in the US, denies any involvement in the 2016 plot.
Of those arrested all are from Istanbul’s Boğaziçi University and Istanbul Medeniyet University, the state-run news agency Anadolu has reported.
Eight are from Boğaziçi, including Koray Caliskan, an academic who worked in the past as a voluntary adviser to Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the leader of the opposition Republican People’s Party, who addressed crowds in Istanbul on 16 July.
Mr Kilicdaroglu, whose party organised the 280-mile “justice” march from Ankara, told the crowd that Turkey was living under dictatorship and pledged to keep challenging the government.
Meanwhile, 64 people being detained were from Istanbul Medeniyet University, 19 of whom were medical faculty professors, Anadolu said. All were suspected users of ByLock, an encrypted messaging app that the government says was used by Gülen’s followers.
About 50,000 people have been arrested and 150,000 state workers including teachers, judges and soldiers, have been suspended in the crackdown under emergency rule that was imposed soon after the attempted military takeover. Some 8,300 academics have been sacked, according to the volunteer-run Turkey Purge website, which documents injustices perpetrated during the Erdoğan crackdown.
Scholars At Risk report that the pressure on Turkish academics has persisted into the 2017 as a new decree was issued dismissing over 600 scholars and more than 100 administrative personnel from higher level educational institutions.
One year after failed military coup, academic freedom in Turkish universities severely curtailed
14. July 2017
One year after the attempted overthrow in Turkey, the German Rectors’ Conference (HRK) views academic freedom in that country as severely curtailed. Just this week, there were renewed reports in the media of the arrest of numerous members of Turkish universities. The HRK protests strongly against this development, and stands in solidarity with the victims of state repression in Turkey.
Analyses by the international network Scholars at Risk underline the situation of the Turkish higher education sector. According to those analyses, since July last year 15 higher education institutions have been closed, and almost 5,300 academic personnel have been sacked by decree and banned for life from employment in the public service. Furthermore, 1,200 administrative personnel have been sacked. Scholars at Risk also reports on the arrest of at least 889 members of universities in the last twelve months.
HRK President Prof Dr Horst Hippler expressed his deep concern at the state’s repression of members of the Turkish higher education sector. “The nature and extent of the acts of government aggression against academics, students and other university members suggest the systematic disregard of fundamental principles of the rule of law,” Hippler declared. “I emphatically call upon Turkey to guarantee the full measure of academic freedom,” the HRK President said. “The criminal prosecutions arising from the attempted coup must not be used as an instrument to restrict academic freedom.”