An Imprisoned Turkish Scholar Speaks

BY HANK REICHMAN

The continuing assault on academic freedom in Turkey, which began last spring and intensified after the failed July coup attempt, continues.  (For previous coverage on this blog go here.)  According to Scholars at Risk, “On October 29, 2016, Turkish authorities issued a decree ordering the dismissal of 1,267 academic personnel, and the expulsion of 68 students studying abroad, on suspicion that they were connected to a violent coup attempt on July 15. Authorities have alleged that members of a movement led by Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen are behind the coup attempt, and have taken a range of actions against members of the higher education community (among others) which they claim are intended to identify those parties involved, and/or to eliminate the Gülen movement’s influence within Turkish institutions.”

Here is a picture shared on Twitter yesterday by journalist Mahir Zeynalov, showing academics being rounded up just yesterday.  According to Zeynalov, over 1,000 scholars are currently imprisoned.

cxo51htuaaafhyjOne of those imprisoned is Prof. Dr. Sedat Laçiner, who has been under arrest at the Çanakkale E Type Closed Prison since the July 23.  His family has now released the following letter written by him on October 13:

Dear Sir,

For approximately 20 years I have been working as an Academician and since 1993 I am also active in the media. I started my journey in journalism at the Milliyet Newspaper as a correspondent and continued as analyst and columnist. I worked at the Star newspaper, Internethaber and Haberdar journals. I continued my International Relation studies, which I had started at the Ankara University as of 1996 in England. I did my master at the Sheffield University and my doctorate at the King’s College (London University). I have written 26 books and numerous scientific articles on International Security and Fight against Terrorism in Turkish and English. I have given plenty of statements to national and international media organizations, amongst BBC, New York Times etc. I was presiding the International Strategic Research Institution, one of the most efficient think thanks of Turkey, for long years. 2006 I entered as the first Turkish citizen the list of Young Global Leaders in the branch of Intellectuals, who were selected from the whole world by the World Forum in Davos. Between the years 2004 and 2009 I was an advisor to the Minister of Interior and between 2010 and 2011 I was advising the President of the Council of Higher Education. Between 2011 and 2015 I was the Rector of the Çanakkale University.

I have always been recognized as a liberal and secular author, journalist and academician. I have always supported the policies of the government on integration with the EU and democratization. Whenever the AKP government started to break off from the West and started to glide more to an Islamic line, I criticized the government. The regression in the Turkish democracy, the increase of autocracy and the decrease of freedom for expression in Turkey had always concerned me. I always have been against the disengagement of Turkey from the EU and its gliding to the East.

Based on my above opponent vision and criticism against the government I have been arrested after the 15th of July 2016. I am under arrest for more than three months and I don’t know how long I will be kept imprisoned. I even haven’t been told what the reason for my imprisonment is. I am not allowed to speak my advocate and to use my right of defense. My imprisonment period is automatically extended without even having a right of audience. We are not allowed to appear before judge and to meet the ruler.

I encountered all these only because of my dissenter opinions.  Not even one crime has been mentioned and shown as justification for my imprisonment. Since more than three months there is no explanation on the reason of my imprisonment.  Without doubt this situation is in contradiction with the universal agreements of human rights to which Turkey is a party and is inconsistent with the Turkish Constitution.

Beginning October the number of people arrested like me was exceeding 35.000 and this number is increasing each day. The number of illegal and out of court dismissals exceeded already 100.000. It is unbelievable that all these are happening in 2016 in an EU country.

Sincerely,

Prof. Dr. Sedat Laçiner

Çanakkale E Type Closed Prison, B-12

Turkey

According to Scholars at Risk,

Following the coup attempt, Turkish authorities declared a national state of emergency which remains in effect as of this report. With the October 29 decree, Decree No. 675, authorities ordered the dismissal of more than 10,000 public officials and employees – including 1,267 higher education personnel – who were identified as being affiliated with “terrorist organizations or groups involved in activities against the country’s national security or those in contact with terrorist organizations or groups.” Decree No. 675 also ordered the expulsion of 68 higher education students studying abroad in Canada, the UK, and the US from their Turkish degree-granting institutions.

According to reports, the decree further provides that the dismissed academics are subject to a lifetime ban from seeking employment as civil servants; their passports and those of their spouses will be cancelled; and they will be stripped of the right to access public housing and those living in public housing will be required to evacuate within 15 days. Additionally, state institutions will not recognize foreign degrees obtained by the students listed in the decree.

The academics subject to the decree reportedly include 24 signatories to the January 2016 Academics for Peace Petition, which called on the government to end its crackdowns targeting Kurdish rebels in the southeastern part of the country. The evidentiary basis, if any, for claims that the scholars or students were affiliated with the Gülen movement, or were involved with the coup attempt, is unclear.

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