On September 11, 2021, Turkey’s Constitutional Court, the highest court of the country, came to a decision regarding the individual application of a Peace Academic and professor of sociology, Latife Akyüz. Professor Akyüz, who was dismissed from her post at DüzceUniversity Sociology Department in 2016 following the public release of the Academics-for-Peace letter condemning the Turkish government’s militarized approach to the country’s decades old Kurdish question, had appealed to the Constitutional Court concerning the international travel restrictions imposed on her passport.
Photo credit: Bianet
Akyüz was awarded to a 2-year long fellowship position by Germany's Philipp Schwartz Initiative which is offered to academics at risk, and another 3-month program in France. She was unable to take up either because of the restriction on her right to mobility. Akyüz took her case to the Constitutional Court in 2016, demanding immediate removal of the travel ban on her passport. Five years later, the Court’s final response concluded that Akyüz’s ‘right to respect for privacy’ was violated by the restriction of her right to benefit from academic, professional opportunities abroad. Accordingly, the travel ban on Akyüz’s passport is expected to be lifted which is good news. It is also widely anticipated that the decision will set a legal precedent for the many other Turkish academics who have been facing similar legal and institutional challenges.
We at the Endangered Scholars Worldwide (ESW) see the Constitutional Court decision as a positive development. The ongoing tensions in Turkey have had a profoundly negative impact on academic freedom and continue to pose a grave threat to higher education on a national scale. ESW urges the Turkish authorities to respect and guarantee the autonomy of higher education in Turkey and to implement the provisions and principles of human rights as specified in international conventions and treaties, and to drop any charges against the accused arising from their nonviolent exercise of the rights to expression, association, and assembly.