Academic freedom and human rights in Turkey: from bad to worse
In my blog on 15 July, just hours prior to the failed coup, I wrote about the plight of the 2218 researchers and faculty that signed a peace petition asking for a cessation of the violence in Southeastern Turkey.
I drew attention to the fact that the signatories were targeted for exercising their right to freedom of expression. Now, after the failed coup, we have seen that the situation for academics has gone from bad to worse. It is incumbent on the international scientific community and governments to condemn the rampant violation of human rights and academic freedom that our Turkish colleagues now must endure.
The Higher Educational Council (HEC) has convened the rectors of all universities in Turkey (there are 193 of them) and demanded the resignation of 1577 deans. All academics abroad – including those attending international conferences - have been recalled, and a travel ban effectively prevents Turkish academics from leaving the country.
The travel ban must be seen as a clear infringement of Article 2 of Protocol No. 4 to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). The Convention states that «[e]veryone shall be free to leave any country, including his own.» Turkey ratified the ECHR in 1954 and is under a legal obligation to respect the human rights enshrined in its charter.
Academic freedom is a cornerstone of democracy. The travel ban and the other restrictions on the work of academics are an alarming attack on academic freedom in Turkey.
Institutions of higher education should stand in solidarity with Turkish academics and call upon the Turkish government to rescind the travel ban and respect the independence of academic institutions and staff in Turkey. The European University Association (EUA) has issued a statement protesting the suspension of education staff and the forced resignation of all university deans. In a similar vein, Norwegian universities and the Norwegian Association of Higher Education Institutions (UHR) have published an open letter (http://www.aftenposten.no/meninger/debatt/Ni-rektorer-skriver-Den-akademiske-friheten-er-truet-i-Tyrkia-600695b.html), urging the Norwegian Prime Minister to make it clear to Turkish authorities that the current infringements of academic freedom and human rights are unacceptable and an undermining of our democratic values.
Following Friday's coup attempt in Turkey the education sector, including the higher education sector, has been targeted, as have many other public sectors.
15,200 education staff have been suspended while Turkey's Hurriyet reports that the Higher Education Council (YÖK) has ordered the resignation of all Deans from both Turkey's Public and foundation universities, 1176 from state universities and 401 from Foundation universities. EUA condemns strongly and unconditionally this action against universities and university staff, and expresses its heartfelt support for the higher education community in Turkey at this time.
While there has been global and unanimous support for the democratically elected government of Turkey in reaction to the military coup, the measures introduced to-day go in the wrong direction. More than ever Turkey needs freedom of speech, public and open debate, as advocated by its strong university sector, committed to internationally recognised university values, the principles of academic freedom, free expression and freedom of association.
EUA calls on all European governments, universities and scholars to speak out against these developments and to support democracy in Turkey, including institutional autonomy and academic freedom for scholars and students.
Khrono 21st of July (in Norwegian): Tyrkia: Sterk akademisk støtte
Aftenposten 22nd of July (in Norwegian): Ni rektorer skriver: Den akademiske friheten er truet i Tyrkia
Aftenposten the 27th of July (in Norwegian): Tyrkia: - En politisk utrenskning av de intellektuelle