Regime’s fresh "organic" intellectuals

I’ll share two news, and excerpts from a report.

Academic Cenk Yiğiter’s 280-character tweet (translated from the Turkish) perfectly paints the picture of Turkish academia today: "I’m a law professor expelled from my position with an executive order. I am banned from publishing articles or attending conferences.  I’m banned from public sector jobs. I’m not allowed to work at private universities. I’m not allowed to practice law. I am not allowed to study at Ankara University. I’m not allowed to obtain a passport or leave the country.” As if that wasn’t enough, Yiğiter was recently detained by Turkish authorities.

The report, from the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), examines the state of higher education in Turkey. I present a few quotes:

“While the autonomy of universities and academic freedoms are under significant assault, the infrastructure of Turkish universities that used to allow academics to research freely and share their findings with the public have been gradually eroding as the ruling party continues to destroy the purpose of these educational institutions. The most concrete application of this strategy was demonstrated by the systematic lynching campaign that targeted the...‘Academics for Peace’ [who signed a manifesto] voicing their desire that the Turkish government end violence against the Kurdish population.” For news on the Kafkaesque trials, and a look at how these academics are abused, ridiculed and humiliated, visit Bianet.

“The executive orders during the State of Emergency have specifically targeted the universities and the academics. During this process, 15 universities were closed down; 1,517 faculty deans (1,176 public university and 401 private university officials) were forced to resign. A total of 5,904 academics and 1,408 administrative staff have been dismissed from these universities.” All that's harsh enough, but BBC Turkish paints an even gloomier picture:  “Since the beginning of the academic purges on September 1, 2016, at least 23,427 academics were either expelled or lost their jobs in Turkey according to the compiled data.”

And the last quote from the report: “According to September 2018 migration data from the Turkish Statistical Institute, the number of Turkish citizens migrating abroad for social, economic, political and cultural reasons reached 253,640 in 2017, an increase of 42.5 per cent compared to the previous year. More than 42 percent of these migrants were within the 25-34 age group.” Presumably, many young, well-educated people and college professors were able to find jobs abroad. But even those without job offers are leaving, leading to serious brain drain. 

What are the remaining academics doing while the circumstances in Turkish academia are so dire? The Council of Higher Education (YÖK) reports on its website: “The first panel for the ‘Protection of the Academic Heritage in the Middle East’ project launched by the Council of Higher Education with the honours of Vice President Fuat Oktay was held in New York last week. (...) Dr Ümran Inan, Dr Fuat Keyman, and Dr Nihat Berker, who previously taught at Stanford University, Harvard University and MIT respectively, joined the first panel.”

The project entails organizing eight similar panels in Belgium, France, England, Germany, Spain and Russia as its first stage. After the New York meeting, they are planning to make an appearance in the European Parliament in December.

Some additional news: “The panel was moderated by the rector of Koç University, Dr Ümran İnan. Zeliha Koçak Tufan, the coordinator of the project who joined the panel representing the Executive Board of YÖK; Deputy Dean of Kadir Has University and the Dean of Faculty of Engineering and Natural Sciences Dr Nihat Berker and Sabancı University Faculty Member Dr Fuat Keyman joined the panel.”

The project coordinator Zeliha Koçak Tufan said, “This project aims to raise awareness about the academic heritage that was destroyed in the Middle East at both the national and international levels. We don’t want lost generations in the Middle East,” speaking at the panel. It was also reported that Tufan said she was receiving “dozens of emails every day” from Syrian academics that would like to find teaching positions in Turkey. “They were respectable people before the war. They weren’t under such dire straits. We too might find ourselves in their shoes in the future, who knows,” said Tufan, the news portal reports.

Two points: Firstly, this panel seems to think that Turkey is not in the Middle East or otherwise they don't know where they are living, as the coordinator utters "we too might find ourselves in their shoes in the future, who knows." In any case nobody is buying this story. Syrian scholars are well aware of the circumstances in Turkey and are looking for jobs in the West. 

But there is worse.These Western educated professors are putting their relations on the line to legitimise a regime that is oppressing the academic freedom, and jailing scholars in Turkey.  Is it possible that these academicians who are all holding administrative positions and joining these panels to speak on behalf of the Turkish Academia are unaware of the pitfall that the latter is in or the indescribable injustices thousands of academics are facing in Turkey? 

This is a mixture of cynicism, ambition, desire of obedience to an even fascist rule and perhaps a bit of parochialism. 

Whatever the case, their actions are an insult to their thousands of colleagues suffering under the oppression of the state.

The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Ahval.