Ole Petter Ottersen, Rektor UIO. Foto: Wanda Nathalie Nordstrøm

Turkey imposes travel ban on academics

Following the failed coup on July 15, Turkish authorities have issued a temporary travel ban on all academics. The University of Oslo-rector Ole Petter Ottersen writes about the situation in Turkey for academics.

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Under the ban academic staff are prevented from travelling abroad to conduct research or attend conferences. The travel ban comes days after the authorities called for the resignation of deans at Turkish universities and suspended 15,000 employees in the educational sector.

The ban must be seen as a clear infringement of Article 2(2) of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) on the freedom of movement, which states that: «[e]veryone shall be free to leave any country, including his own.» Turkey ratified the ECHR in 1954 and is under a legal obligation to respect the human rights enshrined in its charter.

Academic freedom is a cornerstone of democracy. The travel ban and the other restrictions on the work of academics are an alarming attack on academic freedom in Turkey.

Higher education institutions should stand in solidarity with our Turkish colleagues and call upon the Turkish government to rescind the travel ban and respect the independence of academic institutions and staff in Turkey.

After the attempted coup, we have seen that the situation for academics has gone from bad to worse. Just prior to the failed coup I wrote about the plight of the 2218 researchers and faculty that signed a peace petition asking for a cessation of the violence in Southeastern Turkey. The signatories are now targeted for exercising their right to freedom of expression.

The travel ban and the other restrictions on the work of academics are an alarming attack on academic freedom in Turkey.

Ole Petter Ottersen

The petition said,

  • «The Turkish state has effectively condemned its citizens in Sur, Silvan, Nusaybin, Cizre, Silopi, and many other towns and neighborhoods in the Kurdish provinces to hunger through its use of curfews that have been ongoing for weeks. It has attacked these settlements with heavy weapons and equipment that would only be mobilized in wartime. As a result, the right to life, liberty, and security, and in particular the prohibition of torture and ill-treatment protected by the constitution and international conventions have been violated. We demand the government to prepare the conditions for negotiations and create a road map that would lead to a lasting peace which includes the demands of the Kurdish political movement….»

The signatories of this petition – published in January 2016 and entitled We will not be party to this crime - have since been the target of various accusations, harassment, disciplinary and juridical measures. 1124 signatories face criminal investigation under charges of «spreading terrorist propaganda.»  Hundreds of academics and research assistants have been removed from administrative positions or academic juries, their scholarships terminated or leaves for research visits abroad rescinded. An additional 611 faculty members, as well as the group of academics who were sacked by the military junta after the military coup of 1980, and who expressed their support for the «Academics for Peace,» are now also coming under investigation.

It is of the greatest importance that the international scientific community reacts to and condemns the rampant violation of human rights and academic freedom that our Turkish colleagues now endure.  

The first version of this article was publish on Ottersens blog the very same day the attempted coup took place later in the evening.

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