Friday, December 14, 2012

Association Alleges Academic Freedom Violations in Turkey

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
by Inside Higher Ed:

The Middle East Studies Association raised serious concerns about alleged violations of academic freedom in Turkey - including the detention of students and scholars on the basis of their research into Kurdish issues - in three letters sent to the country’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, on Wednesday.

Collectively, the incidents described in the letters seem to point to “a systematic policy of denying the right to do research and writing and publishing on the subject of Kurdish rights,” said Asli Bâli, an assistant professor of law at the University of California at Los Angeles who conducted research on the legal proceedings against Turkish students and scholars on behalf of MESA and its Committee on Academic Freedom.

“In a way, that is related to a broader campaign to prevent civil society organizing and civil and political action on the part of Kurdish communities and pro-Kurdish communities and scholars in general, whether they be Turkish or foreign," Bâli said.

She added that while Kurdish scholarship has been especially targeted, leftist scholarship in general - on issues such as the environment, gender and race - has come under increased scrutiny in Turkey.

One letter expresses concerns about seven students at Turkish universities - representative of hundreds, Bâli said - who have been detained and accused of membership in the Union of Kurdish Communities (KCK) by virtue of their academic work.

According to the letter, undergraduate and graduate students alike have been accused of membership in the KCK - a prohibited organization in Turkey - on the basis of such evidence as attending or lecturing at an academic forum on Kurdish rights and civil society, and traveling to Iraqi Kurdistan for field research.

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