Turkish gov’t takes sweeping measures against academia

İstanbul University's main gate in İstanbul's Beyazit Square.

The Turkish government is continuing to take sweeping and targeted measures against the country’s higher education sector with at least 990 scholars, staff, and students detained or arrested since the July 2016 coup attempt and 5,717 academics sacked, the Dublin-based University Observer wrote.

Citing a world-renowned political scientist who was jailed for 9 years and 4 months for his alleged ties to the Gülen movement, the article noted Sedat Laçiner is just one Turkish academic who has been charged with being a “Gülenist” for criticizing the Turkish government.

Being labeled a “Gülenist” is “somewhat akin to being called a communist by McCarthy in 1950s America – a claim that can be asserted without evidence and can have an extremely negative impact upon your life,” the University Observer said.

The President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been eroding many of Turkey’s democratic institutions, purging the judiciary, and filling courts with “the party faithful,” it noted.

If President Erdoğan’s goal is to become an autocratic leader, “it makes perfect sense to start silencing the group that all autocrats silence first – teachers, academics and students. Control what is taught in the classrooms and universities across the country, and the ability to hold on to power becomes that much easier,’’ according to the University Observer.

The example of the arrest of 27 academics who signed a petition calling for an end the brutal treatment of the Kurdish people by the Turkish government in 2016, is another example of Ankara’s grip over scholars

Since the coup attempt, the article stressed, things have taken a turn for the worse. Highlighting that many are cautiously optimistic for the future, Clare Robinson of Scholars at Risk (SAR), an international network promoting academic freedom, told the University Observer that “a robust response’’ must be encouraged to such attacks on higher education communities, at the international and state levels. (SCF with Ahval)

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