RIGHTS > Scholars worry over academic immunity

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News

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Barış Ünlü, an editor for the journal Africa, says the university administrators expressed annoyance at an article in the journal for its comments on racism.

Barış Ünlü, an editor for the journal Africa, says the university administrators expressed annoyance at an article in the journal for its comments on racism.

Erdem Güneş Erdem Güneş erdem.gunes@hdn.com.tr

Recent alleged censorship cases at several universities across Turkey have fueled a row about academic immunity, following the withdrawal of a journal and the cancelation of two conferences due to interference by university management.

Most recently, a refereed journal from Ankara University’s Africa Studies Center (AÇAUM) was withdrawn by its writers after the center’s director intervened in the content of articles in its latest issue, which focused on the perceptions of Africans living in Turkey.

Barış Ünlü, an editor for the journal “Africa,” said the institute’s administrator, Doğan Aydal, had expressed his “annoyance” at an article that presented Istanbul-based Africans’ complaints about “racism toward blacHDNk people in Turkey.”

“We do not have racism in Turkey, if such remarks are published once, all [academics] in the world might cite [such comments] and call Turks racist,” Aydal reportedly told Ünlü, adding that he would not allow the “Turkish nation to be called racist.”

Aydal told the Hürriyet Daily News that the academics were free to write such remarks, but added that he was in charge of the journal and that he had to defend the Turkish state.

“If they dare, they are free to pay the necessary money to publish their article in a private publisher, but a control mechanism is needed at the university,” Aydal told the Hürriyet Daily News in a phone interview yesterday.

Aydal also reportedly told Ünlü he had the right to remove such articles if needed, noting that before he started in the position, past issues of the journal had included problematic terms like “Kurdistan” that should not have been included.

The term was used in conjunction with a phrase about “blood being spilled in Turkey,” he said, adding that it was not possible to publish such articles and that “what concerned him was the Turkish state.”
But Professor Faruk Alpkaya from Ankara University expressed his concerns about the matter, saying oppression against academia was increasing day by day.

A prestigious Istanbul university’s previous interference in two conferences after invitations were extended to Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) deputies also created a row, pitting academics and the school’s administrations against each other.

İpek Merçil, a sociology professor and deputy dean of Galatasaray University’s Science and Letters Faculty, said they had to cancel a conference on prisons on Sept. 24 after Rector Ethem Tolga told the organizers not to invite BDP deputy Ertuğrul Kürkçü to the conference.

The conference, titled “Prisons and Society Discussions,” was due to be held at the school on Oct. 3 and 4, but Tolga’s “warning” caused a row between the organizers and university administration.
The rector said “he did not appreciate the speakers in the program,” Merçil told the Daily News at the time.

The university administration canceled another conference on gender equality that was organized by university club Filmmor Sept. 19 because one of the attendees was Sebahat Tuncel, an Istanbul deputy for the BDP. On the same day, an Istanbul court sentenced Tuncel to eight and a half years in prison for being a member of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Professor Esra Arsan from Istanbul Bilgi University said academic publications regarding Kurdish and environmental issues were especially frowned upon by university administrations, and that academics who studied these matters were left isolated.

“Especially academics who are union members and who have leftist tendencies are isolated,” Arsan told the Daily News yesterday in a phone interview.


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Notice on comments

mara mcglothin

11/24/2012 4:17:16 PM

FERIT What are you talkikng about? I guess it all has to do with classism as well(see my previous comment) YOu don't see Western black men having a problem finding a date with a Turkish girl, just go to Reina on a Friday night! If the black man is a basketball star or a soccer star then things are different. I seem to remember in the 90 seeing some famous South American black man and his Turkish wife and children at McDonalds in Bostanci? So it might also be related to their money not skin

mara mcglothin

11/24/2012 4:08:08 PM

There is racism and classism and every other kind of "ism" in Turkey, JUST LIKE everywhere else in the World. Anyone who says that don't have any....are lying. It is human nature, to judge others, by their skin, their pocketbooks, or sexual orientation etc. Sad but true.

mara mcglothin

11/24/2012 12:48:19 AM

ILKER What about freedom of speech???

illawarrior hill

11/23/2012 4:44:24 PM

Academic immunity? What about basic human rights immunity?

american american

11/23/2012 2:36:54 PM

brian, i am living in turkey now and i see turks following behind watch sellers making ape like movements and laughing. there is racism here both overt and covert.


11/23/2012 12:48:41 PM

@ Brian - You've never seen them mistreated on the street, but what have you seen them doing on the street? Selling watches? collecting paper? Have you ever seen an African working in a shop on Istiklal? I'm guessing NO. That's because they are racially isolated from society here, and seen as 'strangers.' Black man could never marry Turkish girl. Nationalism is racism, and Turkey is nationalism.

Faruk Beisser

11/23/2012 12:24:32 PM

Send these people all to the KZ Silivri! Anyone criticizing or telling the truth is a terrorist! And everyone knows journalists murder with their pen, after all, the pen is mightier than the sword!

Brian Irlanda

11/23/2012 9:59:17 AM

Having lived in Turkey I don't think of Turkish people as racist. I've never seen black people being treated with disrespect on the street, public transport, restaurants etc. There's a tendency for minorities to treat any normal dispute that may occur as an example of racism. It's an easy option for them. I've witnessed it personally. For example if you refuse an immigrant a job because they don't have necessary skills, they can claim it's because they are black and you're a racist.


11/23/2012 9:35:48 AM

"We do not have racism in Turkey..." HAHAHA The ignorance astounds me. Oh and there are no gay people, no hate crimes/murders, no police brutality against minorities, no Kurdish problems... WAKE UP!

Jeff Howison

11/23/2012 7:25:58 AM

It is very troubling that an administrator has the power to effectively shut down an internationally-read journal, the first serious publication on Africa in Turkey. This sort of censorship must end immediately.
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