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Prominent Sociologist Detained in Turkey Over Field Research


Photo credit: Duvar English


On March 23, Nükhet Sirman, a prominent Professor of sociology was detained in Istanbul, Turkey by the police. Although the exact charges brought up against Sirman are not disclosed, the arrest is allegedly based on the field research she was conducting in Turkey’s southern province of Mersin.

 

Sirman was detained by the police last Saturday from her house in Istanbul and taken to Mersin for questioning, the province where she was conducting her field research. Allegedly, Sirman was detained because one of her interviewees is currently under police surveillance. So far, the detainment period has been extended by a day and a confidentiality order has been placed on the case, which means that it is not currently known what Sirman is being charged with.[1]

 

Sirman is a leading professor of sociology and has been a member of the Sociology Department of Boğaziçi University since 1989. She is a social anthropologist whose areas of interest include gender-based violence, feminist movements, sociology of kinship, nationalism and ethnic conflict, and postcolonial societies. Prof. Sirman is also one of the signatories of the Peace Petition, which was published by Academics for Peace in January 2016, and accused the Turkish government of violating the fundamental human rights of the Kurdish population of southeast Turkey during the conflicts with Kurdish armed groups in 2015-16.[2]

        

Repressive practices have been increasingly directed towards academics critical of the government since the petition published by Academics for Peace, which led to hundreds of academics being fired from their jobs, having their passports cancelled, or being detained by the police.[3] Although the Constitutional Court ruled on July 26, 2019 that the academics’ freedom of speech had been violated and ordered for them to be returned to their jobs, many of the academics have yet to be reinstated.[4] In recent years, the state of academic freedom in Turkey has deteriorated significantly, with the Academic Freedom Index of the Varieties of Democracy Institute rating the country 165th among 180 countries.

 

Endangered Scholars Worldwide (ESW) calls for the immediate release of Professor Nükhet Sirman from police detention. ESW further calls upon the Turkish government to respect the academic freedom of scholars in Turkey and stop ongoing rights violations against academics. We call upon the members of the international community dedicated to upholding human rights globally to join our call to hold the Turkish government accountable to its commitments to uphold human rights, which it has guaranteed under international law.


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