Sacked Turkish professor applies to employment organization


Date posted: May 22, 2014

ISTANBUL

A Turkish professor who was sacked from his post at the private Haliç University in İstanbul for remarks critical of the government’s stance on an ongoing corruption investigation has applied to the Turkish Employment Organization (İŞKUR) for work and unemployment benefits.

Speaking to Today’s Zaman on Wednesday in an exclusive interview, Professor Osman Özsoy said he is the first professor to apply to İŞKUR, an organization that helps unemployed people in Turkey find suitable jobs and offers some amount of payment to the unemployed for a brief period of time.

His case, some critics say, is only one of the examples that bode ill for a faltering Turkish democracy given the eroding space for critical voices in an increasingly authoritarian environment thanks to the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government’s nondemocratic policies.

“I took such a step [the unemployment application] to leave a record of shame and vileness in history for my academic colleagues,” he said, offering a sobering assessment of the deteriorating conditions for figures critical of the government.

A witch hunt against democrats and liberals appears to be taking hold in the academic world, a worrying sign of deepening social and political polarization that threatens academic freedom in Turkey’s universities. Following his harsh criticism of the government, Özsoy saw his contract with Haliç University terminated in April.

The government’s pressure on those who are critical of its decisions appears to be increasing, as the number of academics who have been fired from their university positions is growing. Not just academics, but also reporters and journalists have been sacked by their bosses upon government pressure, a situation that prompted US-based Freedom House to lower Turkey’s status to “Not Free” in terms of press freedom.

Professor and columnist Özsoy, who was vocal in his criticism of the government and its anti-democratic measures after a corruption scandal erupted on Dec. 17, 2013, was fired later that month by the Yeni Şafak daily, apparently as a result of “instructions from above,” and then dismissed from Haliç University, where he taught public relations, in April.

Özsoy was under contract with the university until 2016, and no reason was provided for his removal. Oddly, the decision was made by the university’s chairman of the board of executives, who has no such authority, rather than university administration.

In late April Özsoy was barred from entering Haliç University after termination of his contract. Insisting on entering the university to teach his course titled “Expectation Management,” Özsoy said he would teach it on the street if necessary. He then gathered his students in front of the university and gave his class. All of his students were present for the lecture.

Özsoy also said that academics who are affiliated with the faith-based Hizmet movement (also known as the Gülen movement) inspired and led by Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen are being dismissed from state universities. But as the government has launched a sweeping campaign to eliminate any employees, be they public servants or academics, that it suspects of having links with Hizmet from state institutions, Özsoy said the purge is not restricted to state universities. It now includes private universities, too.

With his application to İŞKUR, Özsoy said he aimed to showcase the bleak situation of the country amid signs of creeping authoritarianism. A professor needing to apply for unemployment pay: This, Özsoy said, tells us where the country is now. “History will record these days.”

Source: Todays Zaman , May 22, 2014


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