University of Oslo grants Human Rights Award to Turkey’s purge-victim academic

The University of Oslo (UIO) has granted the 2017 Human Rights Award to Turkish academic and human rights activist Professor İştar Gözaydın for her efforts towards freedoms and human rights in Turkey.

Professor Gözaydın, who spent some four months in prison after last year’s coup attempt in Turkey, told UIO’s Uniforma newspaper that she was honored by the award and said she thinks she was given it because of an article about her in the newspaper last year.

UIO Rector Svein Stølen told Uniforma that Gözaydın was honored because she is a successful academic, active in public debates and contentious in freedom of expression and human right issues. Stølen said he expects Gözaydın would arrive in Oslo in November to receive her award.

Speaking about her jail time, Gözaydın told Uniforma that during her pre-trial detention from Dec. 20, 2016 to April 7, 2017 she had received over 200 letters from all over the world and replied to all. She also underlined that her cellmates were academics like herself who were dismissed from their jobs by government decrees issued as part of emergency rule declared days after a failed coup on July 15, 2016.

Gözaydın was detained on Dec. 20 as part of an investigation conducted by the İzmir Chief Prosecutor’s Office into the Gülen movement. She was arrested on Dec. 27.

Gözaydın was head of the sociology department at the İzmir-based Gediz University, which was shut down by government decree along with thousands of other educational institutions in the aftermath of the failed coup attempt over the university’s alleged links to the Gülen movement.

A former Fulbright scholar, Gözaydın had worked as a research fellow at Birkbeck, University of London, and is also among the founders of the Helsinki Citizens Assembly, a Turkish-based human rights organization.

Turkey survived a controversial military coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that killed 249 people. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.

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 them in custody.

Turkey has suspended or dismissed more than 150,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants since July 15. Turkey’s Justice Ministry announced on July 13 that 50,510 people have been arrested and 169,013 have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup. (SCF with turkeypurge.com)

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