The War on Education in Turkey
The Crisis of Higher Education in Turkey
Following the arrest of 27 Turkish academics and a criminal investigation into more than 1,200 individuals across 90 Turkish universities, the Turkish Government has taken drastic steps toward restricting academic freedoms throughout the country. Fortunately, all arrested academics have since been released; however, if convicted, they could face up to 15 years of imprisonment on accounts of "propaganda against the government" and "insulting the Turkish government."
We at the Endangered Scholars Worldwide believe that the government’s reaction is mushrooming, yet another crisis for the nation’s academic community and academic freedom.
The arrested academics may have been freed, but many do not feel safe. Kizil says, "The biggest danger may not be legal prosecutions but extrajudicial punishment . . . Local mobbing is common [and] these academics are being targeted by various groups in Turkey now. They are terribly afraid."
Academics who have openly criticized Turkey's military crackdown on ethnic Kurdish communities are also now feeling the wrath of the Government.
While academics outside Turkey may not face a specific threat, it would be a grave mistake to forsake the fruitful progress that had just begun to make itself felt on Turkish campuses. To allow Turkish academics to be vilified and isolated would be to concede defeat to the most conservative and anti-intellectual impulses of Turkish society.
It is vital, then, to show our solidarity with academics in Turkey. We at Endangered Scholars Worldwide urge you not to forsake our Turkish colleagues at this crucial time. We must remember Hannah Arendt's warning that the world's greatest atrocities are not merely the result of leaders misusing their power, but also of average citizens who stay silent and go about their business with "hardly the time, let alone the inclination, to stop and think." We may like to imagine that the atrocities of the past cannot be repeated, but by turning our backs on our Turkish colleagues and neglecting the government proposal "to choose a side" by the scholarly community, we risk allowing a dangerous climate to intensify, one that we may regret for decades to come. For this reason, the subsequent solidarity petitions are crucial. They indicate to the Turkish Government and to the world an ongoing commitment to securing Turkish academia as part of a global community of researchers and intellectuality despite the challenges they face in their own country.