Expelled academics in Turkey who could also have been coup victims

Expelled academics in Turkey who could also have been coup victims

“They are sacking the same academics who would have been sacked by the post-coup regime if it had succeeded.”

That quote is from Ruşen Çakır, a journalist who posted this message from his Twitter account on Feb. 8, right after news hit the wires about the sacking of 4,464 more employees from public jobs with a state of emergency decree. The state of emergency was issued after the foiled coup attempt of July 15, 2016, which both the government and opposition parties say was masterminded by the secret network of U.S.-based Islamist preacher Fethullah Gülen. 

No specific reason has been given for the dismissal of the 4,464 employees, but the move was justified by the government as part of the “struggle against terrorism.” 

Most of those dismissed are school teachers, while some are gendarmerie and police officers. But it is the 330 academics who triggered the biggest reaction, even among some pro-government opinion-shapers.

Among the dismissed is Dr. İbrahim Kaboğlu. An internationally renowned professor of constitutional law, Kaboğlu heads that department in the Faculty of Law at Istanbul’s Marmara University. Known as a critic of almost everyone, but also respected by most, Kaboğlu’s dismissal was even condemned by Cem Küçük, a columnist and TV personality who is a staunch supporter of President Tayyip Erdoğan. Küçük said he suspected these dismissals could be part of an internal “sabotage” operation targeting the coming referendum on constitutional changes to shift Turkey to an executive presidential system.

There is also Dr. Öget Ökten Tanör from Bilim University in Istanbul. She is a respected physician known as the master of neuropsychology in Turkey. Also a left-leaning liberal, the 82-year-old academic was one of the signatories of a petition known as “Academics for Peace,” many of whom have been accused of conducting the propaganda of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and some of whom have already been expelled from universities. (115 of the 330 names dismissed in the latest decree were signatories of either that petition or a second one in support of their colleagues.)

Also on the list is Dr. İbrahim Yazıcı, one of Turkey’s most prominent orchestra conductors. Yazıcı has given lectures and conducted the symphony orchestra of İzmir’s Dokuz Eylül University, as well as concerts of the world-renowned Turkish pianist and composer Fazıl Say. Yazıcı has also served as the music and arts advisor of İzmir Mayor Aziz Kocaoğlu from the social democratic main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP).

Another name dismissed in the decree is Dr. Tülin Sağlam, the head of the Theater Department in Ankara University’s Faculty of Literature and History. Sağlam was not the only one expelled from that department - there were five others dismissed and the department is now out of any senior professors. If no new names are appointed soon it will be effectively closed down. 

So Ruşen Çakır really does have a point. If the coup plotters had not been prevented by resistance from the government, the parliament, the people, and most of the military that stood against it, they would most probably have fired the same or similar names or put them in jail.

Something behind closed doors is likely to go terribly wrong, but it is not possible to diagnose it correctly because of the continued lack of healthy information.