In the wake of the July 15-16, 2016 attempted coup in Turkey, there have been widespread reprisals including one focused on the scientific community. An Aug. 3, 2016 news item on the Al Jazeera website describes a situation at Turkey’s national science research council,
Turkish police have raided the offices of the national science research council, private broadcaster NTV reported.
Many people were detained in the raid on the offices of the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (Tubitak) in the northwestern province of Kocaeli on Wednesday [Aug. 3, 2016], NTV said.
Tubitak funds science research projects in universities and the private sector and employs more than 1,500 researchers, according to its website.
An Aug. 3, 2016 CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) news item adds some detail,
… a Tubitak official told Reuters the raid had happened on Sunday [July 31, 2016], adding he did not have any details about the number of detentions. He declined to comment further.
The raid on TÜBİTAK takes place within the context of widespread retaliation. A July 20, 2016 article by John Bohannon for Science magazine describes the situation,
In the wake of a failed coup attempt last weekend, the Turkish government has brought higher education to a grinding halt. It appears to be part of a massive political purge in which the government has arrested and fired thousands of people. And educators across the country are bracing for more bad news after the government this week suspended teachers and academic deans. “They are restructuring academia,” says Caghan Kizil, a Turkish molecular biologist based at the Dresden University of Technology in Germany who has been in close communication with colleagues in Turkey. “People are very scared and not hopeful.”
In the span of a few days, more than 45,000 civil servants in the military and judiciary have been fired or suspended. Although there are ambiguous and conflicting media reports, it appears that some 15,000 staff members of the ministry of education also were fired, 21,000 teachers lost their professional licenses, and more than 1500 university deans were all but ordered to resign.
The latest clampdown took place yesterday [July 19, 2016] when the government ordered universities to call back Turkish academics from abroad. “They want to take the universities under their full control,” says Sinem Arslan, a Turk doing a political science Ph.D. at the University of Essex in the United Kingdom. “Academic freedoms will no longer exist. I don’t think that anybody will be able to work on research areas that are considered taboo by the government or write anything that criticizes the government.”
With its latest raid, the Turkish government has raised concerns about Turkish scientists and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) has produced a letter in response. From an Aug. 3, 2016 AAAS news release,
As the Turkish government restores order after the failed coup, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and seven other leading science and engineering societies today expressed concern for the human rights of the Turkish scientific community, which has reportedly been subject to restrictions including travel bans and the ordered return of Turkish academics working abroad.
“The future prosperity and security of any nation depends on its ability to be a knowledge-based, innovative society and to a considerable extent on the work of its scientists, engineers, academics, and researchers,” the science group wrote, in a letter to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey.
They emphasized that the health of the scientific enterprise requires that scientists have freedom to think independently and innovatively and are able to engage with scientists around the world. Noting that the Turkish government had previously stated that “democracy, freedom, and the rule of law are nonnegotiable in Turkey,” the science organizations urged President Erdoğan to “follow through on this pledge to fully respect human rights, the rule of law, and due process” to protect both citizens and the scientific community.
The letter was signed by AAAS CEO Rush Holt, executive publisher of the Science family of journals, as well as the leaders of the American Anthropological Association, the American Association of Geographers, the American Physical Society, the American Sociological Association, the American Statistical Association, Sigma Xi, and the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues.
“Reports of forced resignations, suspensions, and travel bans affecting thousands of Turkish scientists and academics are deeply troubling, and deeply problematic for any civil society,” said Rush Holt, CEO of AAAS and executive publisher of the Science family of journals. “We urge President Erdoğan to follow through on his pledge to protect basic human rights, the rule of law, and academic freedoms for citizens and scholars alike.”
This is not the first time in this decade that the Turkish government has ordered repressive measures against scientists. Here’s more from my Sept. 9, 2011 posting, a time when Erdogan was Prime Minister,
Scientists in Turkey are threatening to walk out on the Turkish Academy of Sciences due to some recent government initiatives affecting the academy’s governance. From the Sept.9, 2011 news item on physorg.com,
Members of TÜBA [founded in 1993], the Turkish Academy of Sciences, are threatening to resign en masse in order to fight a decree issued by the government of Turkey that would strip the Academy of its autonomy.
The decree, issued on 27th August, which was just after the start of a nine-day holiday in Turkey, says that one-third of the members of the academy will now be appointed by the government and a further one-third by the Council of Higher Education, which is also a government body. [emphasis mine] Only the remaining one-third will be elected by current members. The president and vice-president of the academy will in future be appointed by the government rather than by sitting members. In addition, honorary members will lose their voting rights and the age at which members are deemed honorary will be reduced from 70 to 67.
A Sept. 7, 2011 editorial in Nature provides a more comprehensive description of what was then occurring,
On the eve of a week-long holiday to celebrate the end of the fasting period of Ramadan, the Turkish government executed an extraordinary scientific coup. On 27 August, it issued a decree with immediate effect, giving itself tighter control of Turkey’s two main scientific organizations: the funding agency TÜBİTAK and the Turkish Academy of Sciences (TÜBA), the governance of which is now so altered that it can no longer be considered an academy at all.
The move has startled and appalled Turkish scientists. It should also sound an alarm bell throughout Turkish society. The government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is also taking greater control of other sectors through a series of decrees requiring no parliamentary debate. …
This time scientists are being targeted along with many other groups and, if rumours are even partially correct, government actions are more severe than they were in 2011.