Kurdish academic fired from Turkish university over 2014 interviews with Kurdish officials

Adem Yıldırım, a Kurdish academic who was fired by the Adıyaman University in eastern Turkey, has criticised the university for its “premeditated” decision to expel him for translating for a Syrian Kurdish official, Iraqi Kurdish news agency Rudaw reported on Thursday.

Yıldırım was expelled from Adıyaman University’s Faculty of Education in September, after an investigation claimed he had worked as a translator for Abdulsalam Ahmed, the head of public relations for the Movement for a Democratic Society (TEV-DEM), during interviews for a Kurdish academic journal in 2014.

TEV-DEM is a group which includes a number of Kurdish organisations, such as the Democratic Union Party (PYD), which has control over the People’s Protection Units (YPG), a Syrian Kurdish military group Turkey considers to be affiliated to the banned Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK).

The 2014 issue of Kurdish-Turkish academic journal Kampfplatz also included an interview with Salih Muslim, who was co-chair of the PYD at the time. The journal’s website describes itself as  “a radical journal whose objective is to turn philosophy and social sciences into a battlefield.”

Yıldırım denied ever having met with or interviewed Muslim, when submitting a defence to the university on the matter, Turkish news website Duvar reported, and said he had merely translated the interview questions.

“Investigating and punishing the translator of an interview because of the ideas of the interviewee goes against the principle of individual criminal responsibility,” Yıldırım said. “And in any case, subjecting an academic to disciplinary and criminal investigations for translating interview questions for a legal journal is unacceptable.”

Yıldırım said the Council of Higher Education’s (YÖK) decision to expel him from his post was “premeditated.”

Yıldırım also criticised the journal Kampfplatz for removing the interview with Salih Muslim, saying that the organisation had not supported him in his dispute with the university.

“The university expelled me in a hurry, but there is no record anywhere of this crime I stand accused of,” Yıldırım said.

The YÖK based Yıldırım’s expulsion on a temporary clause in a presidential decree issued under the state of emergency declared in 2016, following the failed coup attempt of July 15.

The state of emergency was lifted two years later, but Temporary Article 35 of the Emergency Presidential Decree No.375, issued in 2018, states that for the following three years, public servants may be removed from their positions upon approval by the Interior Minister if they are “assessed to be in contact with or member to” terrorist organisations or other bodies that the National Security Council has deemed to be acting against the state’s national security.