Staff face life ban for Islamic activities

November 13, 1998

Turkish academics face a life-long ban from their universities and the loss of all academic titles if they engage in "anti-Ataturk activities", which are held to be attempts to challenge the principles of the secular state.

The sanction underpins disciplinary regulations introduced by YOK, the country's university authority, as part of a clampdown on Islamic activities. Among the new offences are taking part in protests that delay conferences seminars or exams, or "whose actions lead to their delay".

Academics' conduct abroad could also result in a ban if they display "behaviour and attitude in foreign countries that belittle the state's noble character".

The general nature of the wording has raised fears that many academics could face sanctions. Further regulations on freedom of speech and expression have also been introduced. Academics who copy any banned written material or "other similar materials that have ideological and political purposes", or spread "oral propaganda" will be prevented from working in the public sector.

The regulations have been introduced as the controversy over the ban on the wearing of Islamic dress in universities deepens. Only days after they were announced, 20 academic staff were dismissed. These staff are also banned from working in the growing private university sector, and the loss of academic titles will make work abroad difficult.

The regulations could silence all academic criticism of the secular state. The clampdown on Islamicists has been criticised even by academics who back secularism.

Following a military coup in 1980, tens of thousands of academics were banned for life for their political sympathies. In some cases the ban was lifted only in the past few years.

In a rare showing of solidarity in Istanbul left-wing and Islamic students joined in a protest outside the largest university.

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