Worrying news from Turkey

One should of course be concerned when anybody is detained for spurious reasons, but when that person is a noted mathematician, the shock is greater. Six academics have recently been detained in Turkey, of whom one, Betül Tanbay, is due to become vice president of the European Mathematical Society in January. I do not know of any petitions for their release, but if they are not released very quickly I hope that there will be a strong reaction. The EMS has issued the following statement.

The European Mathematical Society is outraged at the news that the Turkish police have detained, in Istanbul on the morning of 16th November 2018, Professor Betül Tanbay, a member of the EMS Executive Committee. We are incredulous at the subsequent press release from the Istanbul Security Directorate accusing her of links to organized crime and attempts to topple the Turkish government.

Professor Tanbay is a distinguished mathematician and a Vice President Elect of the European Mathematical Society, due to assume that role from January 2019. We have known her for many years as a talented scientist and teacher, a former President of the Turkish Mathematical Society, an open-minded citizen, and a true democrat. She may not hesitate to exercise her freedom of speech, a lawful right that any decent country guarantees its citizens, but it is preposterous to suggest that she could be involved in violent or criminal activities.

We demand that Professor Tanbay is immediately freed from detention, and we call on the whole European research community to raise its voice against this shameful mistreatment of our colleague, so frighteningly reminiscent of our continent’s darkest times.

Update. I have just seen this on Twitter:

Police freed 8 people, incl. professors Turgut Tarhanli and Betul Tanbay, while barring them from overseas travel, & is still questioning 6 others

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4 Responses to “Worrying news from Turkey”

  1. Yemon Choi Says:

    For what it’s worth, I found this update http://bianet.org/english/law/202720-prof-dr-betul-tanbay-released (Caveat: I don’t know anything about the website, it’s mission, etc., but I have no reason to doubt the account that’s given there.)

  2. Winston Says:

    My comment is not about the situation in Turkey and the unjustified detention of Betül Tanbay but about the underlying issue of protecting academic freedom. I am sure we all agree that academic freedom should be protected and scholars should not be threatened with job loss on political grounds or for engaging in academic enquiry on controversial topics. With this in mind I urge everyone here to read this article and add their name to the petition at the end of the article.

    https://quillette.com/2018/12/07/academics-mobbing-of-a-young-scholar-must-be-denounced/

    • Yemon Choi Says:

      Whatever one’s views on the story you link to, posting your comment on this thread seems rather tendentious and (speaking only for myself) faintly offensive, given the realities faced by academics in Turkey over the last few years.

      In contrast: I don’t have any issue with the similar comment you posted on one of the Ted Hill threads, even if we are probably on different sides of that particular debate, because that seemed like an appropriate place to make such a comment.

    • Winston Says:

      Dear Yemon Choi, yes, my comment was certainly tendentious, and of course the situation is Turkey is in absolute terms much worse than what is going on here, but the Noah Carl episode (and other similar ones recently) is one that the people here can make a real difference, and I felt that this was appropriate to post it here. Also speaking for myself, the threat to academic freedom from misguided social justice activists is far more horrifying and crucial to counter than the threat from autocratic governments. Oppression of academics by authoritarian regimes is neither new nor unexpected; mobbing by academics in this manner is, and represents the greater threat in my view.

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