Turkey’s War on Its Intellectuals

Semih Idiz,  commenting recently in  AI Monitor noted that “the number of people charged, mostly under anti-terrorism legislation, for some ‘crime’ that has a political angle… almost matches the number of people in a similar situation under military rule in Turkey in the past.” Prominent among those targeted are intellectuals and scholars.

The number and quality of intellectuals that are currently languishing in Turkish prisons is staggering.  Consider, for instance, Prof. Mehmet Haberal , an expert on organ transplants and the founder of Başkent University in Ankara, who has been imprisoned since April 2009 despite having a serious heart condition.

Or Prof. Fatih Hilmioğlu, a gastroenterologist who as rector transformed İnönü University into a modern science center.

Or Professor Kemal Guruz, a Fulbright Scholar and former head of both the Turkish Higher Education Council and the Turkish National Science and Technology Council.

Or Mustafa Balbay, writer-poet-journalist and member of parliament, who is his fifth year in prison.

These are but a few examples from a long list of scholars and intellectuals, many of whom, like Dr. Haberal and Professor Hilmioğlu are in ill health, have been caught up in Turkey’s overly broad anti-terrorism laws and its application by a deeply flawed judiciary.

Turkey is currently considering another judicial reform package.  But, as Semih Idiz observes:

[no] amount of reform packages will do away with judicial irregularities in Turkey unless the judiciary is educated into understanding what higher concepts of law such as “Habeas Corpus” or “beyond a reasonable doubt” mean. Until that happens Turkey, despite all its economic advances, will remain a second rate democracy, where true justice is the victim of subjective and often ideologically motivated interpretations of the law

William Jones
Chair, Turkey Country Coordination Group
Amnesty International – USA

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