Turkish academic disinvited by Koç University due to ‘politically sensitive’ paper

Turkey’s Koç University has rejected the presentation of an academic paper at a workshop, finding it politically too sensitive for the current extreme conditions in Turkey, the Diken news website reported on Wednesday.

Yasemin Yılmaz, whose paper is titled “Elite Interests and Media Suppression: The Cases of Turkey and Venezuela,” was invited to present her paper at a workshop on Turkey and Latin America on July 20-21 at Koç University.

The organizers of the workshop then sent her an email saying the paper was “politically too sensitive … given the potential consequences involved in the current extreme conditions for academic work in Turkey.”

Yılmaz, who criticized the decision as a good example of self-censorship and academic cowardice, shared the email on her social media account and wrote the following comment:

“I was just disinvited from presenting at a workshop on ‘Turkey and Latin America in Comparative Perspective’ to be held at Koc University, July 20-21. Despite having accepted my paper almost two months ago, organizers informed me today that my paper is too ‘politically sensitive,’ ‘given the potential consequences involved in the current extreme conditions for academic work in Turkey’ (read the full text if you can, it’s full of gems).

“Ironically, my paper deals with freedom of press in Turkey and Venezuela, arguing that where elites support the political/economic project of the government, they will yield free speech. First off, I would like to thank the organizers for validating my academic argument in a way that would have taken me a few drafts, at least.

“While the academic environment in Turkey is without a doubt extreme, it will definitely not improve through self-censorship and academics who are too afraid to hold a simple discussion behind university doors. To reshape conferences based on fears and anticipation of repercussions — based only on paper titles and abstracts no less — is a sure way to preserve the extremeness of the status quo.”

According to a study conducted by the Freedom For Academia, 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.

A report issued in March 2017 by Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) has claimed that 4,811 academics have been dismissed from 112 universities across the country through decrees issued during a state of emergency declared after the failed coup attempt.

However, a BBC Turkish report published in November 2016 said a total 19,828 academics have been dismissed, stripped of the right to teach at universities or have become unemployed due to the closure of their universities by the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government.

According to the report, 3,850 academics have been directly dismissed as part of an investigation targeting the Gülen movement with state of emergency decrees issued following the putsch.

A total of 13,170 academics who were part of a program for training lecturers were deprived of the right to become university staff through another state of emergency decree.

A total of 2,808 academics became unemployed when the government closed down 15 private universities on July 23 with a state of emergency decree.

Turkey survived a controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that killed over 240 people. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with President Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.

Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the movement, strongly denied having any role in the failed coup and called for an international investigation into it, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting participants of the Gülen movement in jails.

At least 161,751 people were detained or investigated and 50,334 people were arrested in Turkey in the framework of the Turkish government’s massive post-coup witch hunt campaign targeting alleged members of the Gülen movement since the controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016, according to statistics reported by state-run Anadolu news agency by basing on information taken from the officials from Turkey’s Justice Minsitry on June 13.(SCF with turkishminute.com) June 28, 2017

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