Restore justice in Turkey

Peace is a dangerous reason to fight in Turkey at this time. In a fresh blow to academics, 11 members, including the president of the Turkish Medical Association, Rasit Tukel, were arrested in an early-morning raid last week. their crime? Using the slogan that war is a matter of public health, the association called for a halt to the Turkish military’s cross-border attack on Syrian Kurdish military units launched internationally on 20 January.

(Targeted Kurdish units are fighting alongside US troops against the Islamic terrorist organization ISIS in northwestern Syria.) The raids follow the arrests of more than a thousand academics who fought for peace in the country’s southeast in January 2016. The petition was signed where the government army was fighting Kurdish separatists. Many face criminal charges, and hundreds lost their jobs.

University professors and scientists were also among 150,000 public servants who were detained and dismissed after a failed coup in July 2016 over stringent laws and imposition of a state of emergency.

Now, a report published on 18 January by human rights organizations in Turkey shows that many of the sacked accused of supporting the FET or, or Gülen, organization that the government believed to be behind the coup attempt. . Membership in other terrorist organizations is also alleged and as a result, many of these academics face serious charges related to terrorism.

The report details the arrests, detentions and trials of those caught in the post-coup purge, as far as possible, and raises concerns that a miscarriage of justice could be rampant. Universities have been hit hard – the report said 5,822 professors and researchers lost their jobs, 380 of whom were signatories of the 2016 Academic for Peace petition.

Among those fired from public service were more than 21,000 health care professionals, and a further 4,113 were judges and prosecutors; His loss partly explains why tests are proceeding so slowly. The report said a special encrypted smartphone text-messaging system (called Bylock) supported by the Gulenists was downloaded and prosecutors claim was available only through personal introduction, enough to condemn someone.

The plight of Turkish academics must not be forgotten. They should be allowed a fair trial and trial without any delay. Telling their stories can also be powerful. Last week, Nature published an interview with Ali Kaya, a theoretical physicist at Boazi University in Istanbul, who has been accused of being a member of a terrorist organization, about what he did to his research during his 15-month imprisonment.

How did you manage to continue? Colleagues in other countries had tweeted about their achievement – ​​a strategy that other scientists could adopt to help their colleagues in Turkey slip out of the public consciousness.

The normalcy in Turkey – whose president is becoming increasingly authoritarian and armistice, and which is looming over an outright civil war – jeopardizes the country’s recent serious efforts to improve its research base. As one part of the government oversees mass arrests and organizes the war, other parts are working quietly but to fix some entrenched problems in the research system.

Thousands of new PhD positions have been created in recent years, along with some new research institutes, and universities have been activated to compete with each other by offering financial rewards for strong performers. This is a start, and enough to persuade at least some young scientists doing postdocs abroad to return home to set up independent research laboratories.

It is a source of hope in more ways than one. Science can provide a channel for maintaining contact and discussion between countries and cultures in politically tense times.

Inevitably, however, like other professionals, many scientists who pursue successful careers in Turkey have half-hearted emigration plans in mind. The Turkish government needs to make its scientists feel safe. It should revoke the newly extended state of emergency, which has long been out of its legitimate purpose.

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