‘Academic freedom in Turkey is going downhill rapidly’
On Sunday about 25 people demonstrated in Amsterdam against the ongoing attacks on academic freedom at Turkey’s well-known Boğaziçi University. Support for the university is starting to decrease, they fear.
Academic freedom has been under pressure in Turkey for some time. After the failed coup in 2016, President Erdogan closed dozens of universities and fired thousands of teachers and researchers. They are said to spread terrorist propaganda or be members of the ‘terrorist organisation’ led by cleric Fethullah Gülen.
In early 2021, President Erdogan appointed a political ally as rector of Boğaziçi University. Immediately after his appointment, protests broke out on the university campus and were suppressed by police using tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannon.
Connection to Nijmegen
Several Nijmegen scientist and students have a past at Turkey’s Boğaziçi University. In 2021, two scientists told their stories to Vox. Additionally, Radboud University collaborates with the prestigious Turkish University through the European University NeurotechEU. ‘We are monitoring the developments and we are in continuous conversations with our colleagues at Boğaziçi’, project leader Tansu Celikel said at the time.
After persistent protests, the controversial rector was fired six months later. But after the arrival of his successor, according to the demonstrators on Dam Square, academic freedom went downhill even faster.
Critical students were arrested and disciplinarily punished, scientists were no longer allowed to teach and all kinds of major reorganisations took place.
The initiators of the demonstration in Amsterdam do not want to give up hope. They continue to draw attention to the students and scientists of Boğaziçi University and hope for a better future.
Translated by Julie Rasing