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Ellie Bothwell on how Turkish refugee academics ‘facing rights violations abroad’ in the Times Higher Education reports that a Study finds dismissed supporters of Academics for Peace struggling to gain residence permits, find work and travel. Here is the story of

Turkish refugee academics ‘facing rights violations abroad’

5 January 2021

Turkish refugee academics ‘facing rights violations abroad’
Kurdish community protestors in Germany
Kurdish community protestors in Germany – Source: Getty

Turkish scholars who have had to leave the country are still subject to significant human rights violations from both the regime of their home nation and their new environment, according to a report.

The study from the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (HRFT) is based on interviews with nine Turkish academics who are now living in Germany and France after signing a 2016 Academics for Peace petition that criticised military action in Kurdish regions of the country. They subsequently lost their jobs and were banned from working in the public sector in Turkey.

The research, Violations of Rights Experienced by Dismissed Academics Living Abroad, finds that these scholars are still suffering almost five years later and that the human rights violations they had suffered in Turkey have “acquired a cross-border dimension”.

In some cases, consulates refused to issue academics with new passports because of their dismissal, and they were then unable to apply for a residence permit and became undocumented, affecting their ability to find accommodation and work. Some academics have not been able to travel outside their city of residence for more than four years because of the differing practices regarding residence permits in their new countries or states.

Scholars also spoke about how their treatment had affected their academic work and said that they were particularly afraid of being targeted in classes with large numbers of students from Turkey. Some academics said they had had to stop lecturing because students had complained to consulates that their course content or discussions in lectures amounted to “terrorist propaganda”.

The interviewees highlighted how the stigmatisation of civil servants dismissed in the wake of the 2016 coup attempt was widespread not only in Turkey but also among people from Turkey living abroad. Some scholars said that they were forced to make an effort to conceal their dismissal and had been subjected to threats by neighbours and shopkeepers.

The report adds that the “impact of multiple crises and violations has become far more distressing with the disrupting repercussions of the Covid-19 pandemic”.

“Academics are caught in a cycle of uncertainty due to the difficulty of obtaining residence permits based on employment in their country of residence. The precariousness and deprivation, which is experienced by dismissed academics and their relatives living in Turkey, has also severely affected those living abroad,” it says.

Lülüfer Körükmez, a researcher at the HRFT and co-author of the report, said that the experiences of dismissed Turkish academics living abroad was “a very under-researched, under-observed and under-reported area”.

“People think that when you leave the country then you are OK. But it is not OK because they still have cultural and political connections with the country and they face violations of rights,” she said.

Mehmet Ugur, professor of economics and institutions at the University of Greenwich and a member of Academics for Peace, said that the HRFT report “should put to shame European governments and international organisations for failing to challenge the Turkish government’s authoritarian and warmongering drive that is still costing lives not only in Turkey but also in the region”.

ellie.bothwell@timeshighereducation.com

Twitter: @elliebothwell