Academics are afraid to return Turkey - Voice of America

Immediately after academics and intellectuals being detained under an investigation into jailed human rights activist Osman Kavala and accused of following him in a bid to unseat the government through mass protests in 2013, Voice of America (VOA) on Nov. 17 talked with Turkish academics in the United States.

On the one hand, Turkey announced its plans to attract qualified Turkish researchers from other countries with a new scholarship program, but on the other hand it continues arresting journalists.

Turgut Tarhanlı, dean of the law faculty at Istanbul Bilgi University, and maths professor Betül Tanbay of Boğaziçi University, who was elected this year as vice president of the European Mathematical Society were accused of working with jailed rights activist Osman Kavala to influence the May 2013 unrest, Gezi Park protests, which turned into nationwide anti-government protests.

"The intimidation atmosphere is spreading to all the citizens in waves. We are facing with a regime that sees keeping the anxiety created by the intimidating environment alive as a strategy of social control and pressure within Turkey and abroad," VOA quoted Kumru Toktamış, an Associate Professor at Pratt University Social Science and Cultural Studies, as saying.

According to Toktamış, the writer of the book called Everywhere Taksim focusing on the analysis of Gezi Park protests, the reason behind the recent detentions is to prevent a possible Gezi Park protests-like unrest wave. 

Within the recent incentive program, Turkey offers 2-year scholarships of $91,380 for young researchers and $182,765 for more experienced researchers to ramp up its research output, particularly in the fields of science and technology. But the return of Turkish academics is impossible, 
according to Maya Arakon, a faculty member at the Political Science department of Denison University.

"Only the academics who obey Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan can return to Turkey," said Arakon to VOA.

"With the recent arrests, their real intentions came to light. They say that it is hard to look for you all around the world. Let's return so we can arrest you. "

According to Arakon, the arrests are connected to upcoming local elections in Turkey which will be held in May 2019. 

"The government is trying to consolidate support by reminding voters the Gezi Park protests and warning them about a possible unrest if people would not support the government," quoted the website Arakon as saying. 

Regarding Turkey foreign relations, Arakon added that the Western countries don't like Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, but they are allies because they find him useful.

"As long as the crisis in Syria and the Middle East and the refugee crisis continues, the alignment will continue. Even if Turkey kills all of us, I don't believe that Europe will say something or act against it."