Thursday, 9 February 2017

Free expression punished in Turkey

We take freedom of expression on political matters to be a right. There must be a tempering of this to avoid extremes but it’s generally accepted in liberal democracies. The signing of a petition to criticise government(s) is part of that free expression.

However, in Turkey, an academic colleague and friend was dismissed by her university on Tuesday for being one of several hundred people who supported a petition criticising the Erdogan government’s treatment of the Kurds. This was signed well before the ‘coup’ of July 15 last year.

Her working life in Turkey has ended, as she told me: “I am blocked from all universities and public institutions in Turkey, plus no private companies hire expelled professors because no one wants to deal with Erdogan. We are now persona non grata in our own country. Unfortunately I don't have a future in Turkey anymore.”

She was not alone in being dismissed from their university. As I have other good friends in Turkey, I don’t want this to be perceived as an attack on all Turks but it’s deeply concerning that something as basic as a dissenting voice is punished so harshly. My colleague is well known to many academic friends but I haven’t named her for fear of worsening her situation.