top of page

US Citizen and NASA Scientist Detained in Turkey in the Aftermath of Failed Coup

Updated: Mar 12, 2022

Serkan Golge, a 36-year-old NASA physicist of Turkish descent, was arrested on August 6 and formally accused of involvement with the Gulen movement, which is considered a terrorist organization by Turkey. Golge has also been accused of spying for the CIA.

As a senior research scientist at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Golge has studied the effects of radiation on astronauts aboard the International Space Station since 2013. He has helped create models that predict the risk of cancer from galactic cosmic rays and has analyzed data from particle detectors on the space station. At Jefferson Lab he worked on the PEPPO experiment to generate polarized beams of positrons.

Golge traveled to Turkey in late June to visit family with his wife and two sons.

Endangered Scholars Worldwide is deeply concerned about the arbitrary detention of Serkan Golge in response to his exercise of his 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, 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.

The war against academics started long before the attempted coup. On January 10 of this year, a group of scholars named the Academics for Peace signed an open letter asking the Turkish government to end its violence in the Kurdish provinces. The next day, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan accused the signatories of treason and called for their punishment. The Turkish judiciary system initiated public prosecutions under Turkish antiterror laws, alleging defamation of the Turkish state and accusing signatories of spreading “terrorist organization propaganda.” Turkey’s Higher Education Council (YÖK) ordered university rectors to commence disciplinary investigations. Numerous suspensions, dismissals, and imprisonments followed.

We at Endangered Scholars Worldwide urge Turkish officials to honor their constitutional obligations to protect the institutional integrity of universities and the freedoms of scholars and academics.

We call on the United Nations General Assembly and member governments to put pressure on the Turkish government and express concern over the actions taken against universities and higher education establishments.

Please join The New School, home of the original University in Exile and Endangered Scholars Worldwide, in calling on Turkish authorities to

  • cease their attacks on Turkish academics and universities;

  • free those who have been arrested without cause;

  • allow those who wish to travel freely outside the country to do so; and

  • make Turkish universities once again the havens of freedom of inquiry and free expression that all great universities must be.


bottom of page