Like its fragile democracy, academic freedom has never been consolidated in Turkey. The budding vibrancy of university campuses in the 1960s gave way to growing political violence and radicalism during the 1970s. Hundreds of left-leaning academics were purged after the military coup of September 1980. Thousands more resigned, withdrew from public life or left the country under conditions of military dictatorship. The institutional legacy of that coup and the damage it inflicted on the country’s intellectual life have been far-reaching and enduring.
Standing at a blackboard in an Ankara park, Sevilay Celenk delivers her lecture, titled: "Resisting with Stories". Several hundred students huddle in heavy coats against winter cold to listen as she describes the fears and struggles that echo through literature across societies.
This small amphitheatre has become her unofficial classroom since she was fired from her post as a media and communications lecturer at Ankara University, one of nearly 5,000 academics dismissed following July's failed army coup.
ISTANBUL, Turkey – Korkut Boratav has seen government purges gut three generations of Turkey's universities over the last 70 years.
The retired economics professor's father, Pertev Naili Boratav, a renowned historian, was forced out of Istanbul university in 1948 for his views. He himself was dismissed from Ankara university in 1983 after the military coup. And last week, the 82-year-old's former assistant, Nilgun Erdem, was sacked.
When I heard the news on late Tuesday night, I did not know who to pity more than the other. I knew a few of the victims, but the first one I thought was a soft-spoken, elderly gentleman; Prof İbrahim Kaboğlu, from Marmara University, a top Turkish expert on constitution and law.
His civil courage has remained a contrast with his mild manners: he is one of the flag bearers of those who against all odds defend the value of the rule of law. Tuesday night, this senior scholar from Istanbul was ‘awarded’ by being fired, in a most arbitrary way.