Turkish university professor sacked for insulting President Erdoğan during lecture

June 22, 2016

Bilgi University confirmed that Professor Zeynep Sayın Balıkçıoğlu had been fired after 'insulting the Turkish president during a lecture', which had taken place one day previously. 


Professor Balıkçıoğlu, who worked in the communications faculty, 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 Professor Balıkçıoğlu’s remarks as “vulgar” and rude”. 



In March, a British academic who lectured who lectured in computer science at Bilgi University had been deported from Turkey without trial after being accused of “terrorist propaganda”. Professor Stephenson was accused of distributing illegal propaganda from issued by the banned Kurdistan Worker’s Party, but said that he simply had leaflets in his bag 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, after a criminal investigation was launched in January 1,128 Turkish academics signed a petition to the Turkish government calling for an end to violence in south-eastern Turkey, leading to a number of signatories reportedly being detained. 



Endangered Scholars Worldwide is deeply concerned over the reports from Turkey 


While academics outside Turkey may not face a specific threat, it would be a grave mistake to forego 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. That is why it is so vital to show our solidarity with academics in Turkey. We at the Endangered Scholars Worldwide invite you 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;  “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,  turning our backs toward 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 academia 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, to which Turkey is a 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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