What is abnormal?
What is normal or abnormal? Who can decide? Does it depend on the conditions in a country or international conjecture? Does the mood of a president, a prime minister or a police officer help to make a decision on it?
It might be very difficult and yet very easy, depending on whom is asking the question and its relevance. For example, assume there was an English mathematics professor lecturing to young and bright Turkish people at a Turkish university; let’s say Bilgi University in Istanbul. The professor had been living in Turkey for the past 25 years and had residence and work permits. Furthermore, he was married to a Turkish lady and the couple has a 15-year-old daughter. He considered himself so attached to this country that he was one of the more than 1000 signatories of a petition criticizing military action in the southeast against a separatist terrorist group coiled in towns and cities benefitting from a failed Kurdish opening during which there were instructions to the security personnel not to take action against any militant unless they were attacked.
If that mathematics professor was carrying leaflets published and distributed by a legal Turkish party and so far no legal action was taken against those leaflets, can it be normal if that foreign professor married to a Turk and father of a Turkish girl (who might as well be a British citizen) was “captured” by clever Turkish police? Furthermore, was it normal that he was summarily dismissed after he visited a courthouse to support three scholars who also signed the same petition, charged with terrorism offences and facing lofty sentences?
Obviously such a development must not be sane in any country in the world which claims to be a democracy.
Anyhow, is it possible to accept with a sober mind that the mathematics professor, married to a Turkish woman and father of a Turkish girl, be expelled from Turkey just because he expressed his opinion or carried a leaflet published and distributed by a legal party in the country? Were it not the ministers, governors, top civil servants of this country who celebrated together with crowds the previous year or the year before that in city squares, jumping over huge Nevruz fires? Since when has celebrating Nevruz, the birth of nature, the start of the New Year, the spring festival, become a crime? Are we back in those dark 1990s once again?
Anyhow, it was with great pain that Turkey woke up to the news March 17 that Chris Stephenson, a British national, a computer scientist professor at Bilgi University, who has lived for the past 25 years in Turkey, married a Turkish woman and had a daughter born in Turkey, was briefly detained after he visited a courthouse to support three scholars charged with terrorism offences and sometime after his release he was deported from Turkey, presumably on grounds he was in possession of a leaflet published and distributed by the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) inviting people to celebrate Nevruz.
News agencies quoted him speaking before his forced departure from Istanbul’s Ataturk International Airport for Britain that there was “no offence, no trial, just an administrative decision to deport me after 25 years of residency in Turkey… this is very scary and wrong.”
Was it not? Was it not scary?
Obviously, as he as well disclosed in tweet, Stephenson has all the legitimate right to apply to international courts for an annulment of this deportation decision.
Turkey and Britain are two important allies who even at very odd times have managed to overcome their differences and consolidate their relationship. Britain has been one of the strongest supporters of Turkey’s European vocation. I would ask what the impact of this nasty deportation on Turkish-British relations would be, but honestly I am more concerned with the climate of freedoms in the country. How could someone with such a strong attachment to Turkey, a university professor loved and admired by his students and everyone who knew him in Turkey, be so easily and summarily expelled from the country?
Can such a development be considered normal? Or what is abnormal in Turkey? For example, academics expressing their views on a national issue must be something normal in any democracy, even if what they said or suggested might be absurd. Why? Freedom of expression is one of the central pillars of democratic governance. If university professors can be expelled from the country with such appalling excuses, if academics can be expelled from their universities and subjected to witch hunts or worse detained just because they signed a petition which was not appreciated by the top executives of this country, what is indeed abnormal? Can anyone explain?