Turkish student’s internship application rejected by Swedish professor over Sweden’s NATO bid

Photo from Stockholm University

A professor at Stockholm University has turned down a Turkish student who applied for an internship because Turkey refuses to approve Sweden’s application to join NATO, Dagens Nyheter reported on Saturday, citing Turkish public broadcaster TRT.

Fatma Zehra S., a psychology student, had received a scholarship to study abroad through the Erasmus+ program and applied for a research project at Stockholm University. Professor Per Carlbring, who is in charge of the project, said in a reply to the student’s application e-mail that “I would love to host you. However, since Turkey won’t allow Sweden to join NATO, I have to decline. Sorry!”

Speaking to TRT World, the student said she was shocked and that it took her a long time to process. “His answer was unprofessional and discriminatory, if not completely racist,” Fatma Zehra said. “If he did this to me, he will do this to other students with different racial backgrounds who apply to the university,” she added.

According to Dagens Nyheter, Stockholm University confirmed that the incident took place and said the staff member responsible for discrimination issues is dealing with the case.

Fredrik Jonsson, head of the University’s psychology department, said, “There are many requests from students interested in joining us as research interns. We are not able to accept all requests, but we expect that every request will be responded to in a professional manner. In this case, we acted as soon as we became aware of the matter and handled it according to our protocol.”

Fatma Zehra received an apology on December 6 from Torun Lindholm Ojmyr, second in charge at the psychology department, who said Professor Carlbring had admitted that his behavior was inappropriate and that “several active measures are planned in the department,” including “training in equal treatment and the Swedish Discrimination Act.”

According to the Swedish Discrimination Act, treating someone less favorably because of their ethnicity, religion or other belief, disability, sexual orientation or age considered direct discrimination.

However, the student said Stockholm University has taken no direct action to discipline Carlbring nor has she received a direct apology from the professor himself.

Anette Gärdeklint Sylla, a communications officer at the university, said they would not comment further on the issue.

NATO member Turkey is threatening to freeze Sweden and Finland’s attempts to join NATO unless they extradite dozens of people Ankara accuses of “terrorism.”

The issue of extraditions has become relevant in connection with Sweden and Finland‘s request to join NATO. However, the request for the extradition of a list of people was mostly made in 2019 and 2020 by Turkey, long before Sweden submitted its application for membership in NATO.

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