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Turkish University Professor Fired for Insulting President Erdoğan During Lecture

Updated: Mar 12, 2022

Bilgi University confirmed that Professor Zeynep Sayın Balıkçıoğlu was fired after "insulting the Turkish president during a lecture" that had taken place the previous day.

Balıkçıoğlu, who worked in the communications department, was "dismissed immediately" after the university rector’s office learned of the incident.

“Our rector’s office also immediately gave instructions to analyze the incident and launch the necessary legal investigations about it,” the statement said.

The dismissal occurred after details of the lecture were posted on social media, and Turkish news outlets described Balıkçıoğlu’s remarks as “vulgar and rude.”

In March a British academic who lectured on computer science at Bilgi University was deported from Turkey without trial after being accused of “terrorist propaganda.” The professor was said to have been distributing illegal propaganda issued by the banned Kurdistan Worker’s Party; he claimed, however, that he simply had leaflets inviting people to a Kurdish festival.

He was later allowed to return to Turkey and is due to face trial.

Concerns have been growing over academic freedom in Turkey since a criminal investigation was launched in January after 1,128 Turkish academics signed a petition calling for an end to violence in south-eastern Turkey, leading to the detainment of a number of the signatories.

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 on Turkish campuses. To allow Turkish academics to be vilified and isolated would be to concede defeat to the most conservative and antiintellectual impulses of Turkish society. That is why it is so vital to show our solidarity with academics in Turkey.

We at the Endangered Scholars Worldwide invite you to assist 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. "We have hardly the time, let alone the inclination, to stop and think."

We like to think that the atrocities of the past cannot be repeated, yet by turning our backs on our Turkish colleagues and neglecting the shameful 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. This is why the subsequent solidarity petitions are so vital. They indicate to the Turkish government, and to the world, an ongoing commitment to securing Turkish academics as part of a global community of researchers and intellectuality despite the challenges they face in their own country.

Endangered Scholars Worldwide is deeply concerned about the detention of and professional retaliation taken against scholars in Turkey in response to their exercise of the rights to academic freedom, free expression, and free association, conduct that is expressly protected under international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, both to which Turkey is party. The ongoing tensions in Turkey have a profoundly unsettling effect on academic freedom and represent a grave threat to higher education on a national scale.


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