Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Statement of support for Dr. Emrah Altindis

The members of the North America chapter of GIT, the Transnational Working Group on Academic Liberty and Freedom of Research in Turkey, GIT, endorse GIT North America’s statement of support for Dr. Emrah Altindis, a post-doctoral fellow at Harvard Medical School and a GIT North America member. 

President Abdullah Gul gave a speech at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government on May 30, 2014. Hosted by the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, President Gul’s speech posited Turkey as a “safe haven in a troublesome geography “ and underscored its economic development, which, he claimed, was bolstered by the government’s “raising [of] the democratic standards for our young and dynamic nation […].” Following Gul’s presentation, the floor was opened for questions, during which time Dr. Altindis pointed out that the state violence, which has been persistently increasing since the state’s crackdown on peaceful protesters at Gezi Park, was completely absent in Gul’s characterization of Turkey and questioned Gul’s perspective on his responsibility in this atmosphere of lack of human rights and freedom of speech. Not only was Dr. Altindis verbally harassed by Gul’s security personnel while he was asking his question, but he was also told by Gul, in his response, that “nobody would give you the right to ask such kinds of questions.”  Following the circulation of his question in Turkish media, Dr. Altindis has also received, through social media, threats and insults, some of which are penned by academics in Turkey.

Unfortunately, the attitude of Mr. Gül and the intimidation campaigns that targeted Dr. Altindis are part of an official effort to stifle dissidence. Such campaigns and/or authoritarian attitudes undermine citizenship rights. In fact, they also demonstrate to what extent Turkey is far from a safe haven of democracy. Indeed, over the last years, various reports of human rights violations, including numerous letters written by the Committee on Academic Freedom of the Middle East Studies Association--the most prestigious academic institution on matters of the Middle East, have raised similar questions to the Turkish authorities in different fields. 

GIT- North America, like the Turkish Medical Association, fully supports Dr. Altindis’s effort to call into question President Abdullah Gul’s false characterization of Turkey as a safe haven and his refusal to take responsibility in the AKP government’s brutal human rights and freedom speech breaches. As an organization committed to publicizing and condemning limitations to academic liberty, we especially feel it is our duty to state our solidarity with Dr. Altindis. We condemn any individual or institution that calls into question Dr. Altindis' liberty to ask a question in general, and especially in an academic setting.