An empty chair at the University of Oslo's Human Rights Award 2017
This year’s award goes to Professor Ishtar Gözaydin – Turkish academic, social commentator and human rights defender. We had sincere hopes that Professor Gözaydin would be present in Oslo on November 13 to accept the award. It is with regret and concern we have learned that Professor Gözaydin not will be allowed to leave Turkey to accept the award.
In 1993 Ishtar Gözaydin founded the Turkish Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly together with well-known intellectuals such as Murat Belge and Orhan Pamuk. This politically independent organization works for peace, democratization, political pluralism, rule of law and sustainable development.
She has written articles and books where she focuses on the relationship between religion and politics in Turkey. Professor Gözaydin was arrested in her home on December 19th last year together with several former employees of Gediz University. Like most of the 100 000 people who have been arrested after the attempted coup, she has been charged with “membership in an armed terrorist organization”. Professor Gözaydin was released in March of this year, but is in danger of being sentenced for supporting terrorism. Her trial starts in January 2018, and Professor Gözaydin is under an international travel ban due to the pending judicial proses against her.
The University of Oslo have sent an official letter to President Erdogan and to the Turkish Embassy in Oslo respectfully requesting that Turkish authorities look into the possibility that Professor Gözaydin be allowed to travel to Oslo to accept the award, in spite of her travel ban. So far we have not received an answer to this request.
Professor Gözaydin will join us through an internet connection, and I hope for a large crowd in the University of Oslo’s Festive Hall on November 13. I encourage as many as possible in Oslo– students, staff and others – to show their support for the important work of Ishtar Gözaydin and other Turkish academics by joining the award ceremony on November 13.
At the award ceremony the Scholars at Risk report Free to Think 2017 will be introduced by the Chair of Scholars at Risk Norway Section, Karen-Lise S. Knudsen from the University of Agder. Post Doc Einar Wigen from the University of Oslo, specialized in Turkish studies, will give a comment.
The Free to Think report compiles information on 257 reported attacks on higher education in 35 countries over the last year. The Scholars at Risk network, where UiO is an active member, continuously collects and disseminate information on threats on higher education in the searchable academic freedom monitor. SAR’s report demonstrates the extent to which higher education is often a focal point for violent and coercive attacks and is dangerously exposed under authoritarian regimes and in conflict settings. In the 2017 report, the situation in Turkey is given particular attention due to the sweeping actions against higher education communities in Turkey by state and higher education officials.
This year’s University of Oslo's Human Rights Award goes to a researcher who has made her mark as an active social commentator and human rights defender. She is an important representative for academics who are being persecuted, not just in Turkey, but in several countries. As part of the academic community we all have a responsibility to speak up when the freedom and free speech of academics and students are threatened.