President Erdoğan urges Turkish scientists to return home despite his war on science

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Saturday announced a campaign to bring Turkish scientists back home, personally calling for their return, independent news site T24 reported.

“I am calling on our scientists throughout the world to join the science and technology initiative we’ve started in our country,’’ Erdoğan said while speaking at a technology festival held at İstanbul’s third airport.

‘’We began to regress the moment we stopped imagining,’’ he said, noting that in a world where Turkey remains a consumer of technologies, none of its freedoms will be guaranteed.

“Students who we sent to study engineering in the West mostly returned … with their minds deluded,” Erdoğan said, pledging state backing for new projects, especially in the defense industry.

There was a 42,5 percent increase in the number of Turkish citizens emigrating overseas in 2017, according to the Turkish Statistics Institute (TurkStat). İstanbul saw the highest number of emigrants with 75,849 people, while Ankara followed at 27,379.

However, the crackdown on critical thinking in Turkey with an unprecedented witch hunt targeting teachers, academics and other professionals in the education sector has dealt a huge blow to free thought in Turkey, according to a report released by SCF.

The government of President Erdoğan has jailed some 20,000 instructors and arbitrarily fired 34,185 public school teachers and 5,719 academics including professors from state universities within the last two years alone. They were branded as “terrorists” and “coup plotters” without any effective administrative or judicial probe and as such marked for life.

The government shut down 1,069 privately run schools, most of which were the nation’s best performing science schools and were affiliated with the Gülen movement, and closed down 15 universities that were run by privately held foundations. As a result, 2,465 academics and 54,350 teachers instantly became unemployed. With the support staff who worked in these schools, the total number of people who lost their jobs reached 65,214. The government also canceled the licenses of 22,474 teachers, making it impossible for them to continue working as teachers in other institutions.

In total, 96,719 teachers and academics were purged from Turkey’s public and private educational institutions. This number does not include the support staff that was hired to run schools and universities in administrative and other capacities.

Most of the shuttered institutions were transformed into religious schools that are designed to raise a new generation of Islamist supporters for Erdoğan’s AKP.

When all the closed institutions are taken into account, the total loss in value including fixed property and land is around $100 billion, one source estimates. The crackdown included foreign students who came to Turkey for study or Turkish students who were sent abroad on government scholarships.

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