Renowned social anthropologist released from custody under judicial supervision

Professor Nükhet Sirman

Professor Nükhet Sirman, a renowned social anthropologist who was detained by Turkish police on Saturday for her academic work, was released from custody under judicial supervision on Tuesday evening, Turkish Minute reported, citing the Bianet news website.

Sirman, a retired faculty member of the faculty of arts and sciences at the İstanbul-based Boğaziçi University, had been kept in police custody in the southern province of Mersin for three days where she was transferred to following her detention in İstanbul.

Sirman was released under judicial supervision, which includes a travel ban and requires her to regularly check in at a police station.

The professor was detained while she was conducting fieldwork for Dissensus Research, an interdisciplinary research and consultancy firm co-founded by Sirman, because an individual she interviewed for her academic work was under police surveillance.

On its X account, Dissensus Research offered its thanks to everyone who showed solidarity with Sirman while calling her detention something “that should have never taken place.”

The exact accusations against Sirman have not been disclosed, and a gag order has been imposed in her case.

Describing herself as a feminist, Sirman’s academic work centers on gender studies and ethnic conflict, among other themes.

Academics in Turkey and worldwide expressed outrage over Sirman’s detention, saying it was another blow to academic freedom in Turkey, which has sharply declined in the past 15 years, putting the country in 164th place among 179 countries as of December 2023.

This downward trajectory in Turkey’s academic freedom is primarily linked to events following a 2016 coup attempt. In the wake of the abortive putsch, the Turkish government carried out a sweeping crackdown on academics. The crackdown resulted in the dismissal of over 30,000 teachers and 7,000 academics, with many facing serious consequences such as legal action, loss of employment or imprisonment for criticizing government policies.

A significant factor in this decline was President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s 2016 decision to abolish intra-university elections for the selection of university rectors, a move that replaced a traditionally democratic process with direct presidential appointments. The policy has faced widespread criticism for undermining the independence of institutions of higher learning and centralizing control in the hands of the government.

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