Turkish board rejects doctoral dissertation approved by US university for ‘provocative rhetoric and harsh criticism’

A doctoral dissertation that was approved by the State University of New York at Binghamton in 2019 was rejected by Turkey’s Inter-university Board (ÜAK) for “provocative rhetoric and harsh criticism,” the Gazete Duvar news website reported on Tuesday.

The dissertation, written by Dr. Mehmet Baki Deniz, examines the relationship between the power of the private sector and the rise of authoritarian populism in Turkey. Dissertations of holders of Ph.D. degrees awarded by universities abroad are by law required to pass the board’s review for their degrees to be valid in Turkey.

According to a report by Hacı Bişkin, Deniz took the decision to an administrative court claiming that it violates Article 130 of the Turkish Constitution, which stipulates that “Universities, members of the teaching staff and their assistants may freely engage in all kinds of scientific research and publication.”

Ümit Akçay, a member of Deniz’s dissertation jury, said the scientific qualities of a dissertation can only be judged by the jury and not the ÜAK. “I say this as a member of his jury, M. B. Deniz has produced a very high-quality study,” he added.

Another academic, Ali Rıza Güngen, criticized the board’s decision on Twitter and said, “I invite all political scientists to cite this very valuable study.”

Deniz’s dissertation is titled “Who Rules Turkey Between 1980 and 2008? Business Power and the Rise of Authoritarian Populism.” According to the abstract the study seeks to answer the question of how Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) managed to defeat the bureaucratic opposition. Deniz says following “Interviews with former AKP ministers, business leaders, bureaucrats, and a systematic review of newspaper reporting on state-business relations, I establish that a surprising segment of Turkey’s economic elite supported AKP at this juncture and explain why they did. AKP had the support of the EU-US oriented neoliberal businesses represented by two business associations: TUSIAD and TOBB.”

The ÜAK’s decision was also taken to the Turkish parliament by an opposition lawmaker. In a parliamentary question to Vice President Fuat Oktay, Yunus Emre of main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) said it is against the constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights to reject a scientific study based on baseless and fictitious claims.

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