Sunday, May 1, 2016

Feminist Theories and Peace Deemed Inappropriate in Thesis Proposal

Below is the English translation of an article published in Turkish on the news site Diken. The article illuminates the issues with academic freedom in Turkey.

Academic Freedom As Such: 
Thesis on ‘Peace’ Rejected; Thesis Supervisor Resigned

April 29, 2016

The thesis proposal, titled ‘The Role of Women in Peace Building: Women’s Experiences with Peace in Four Different Cities” was submitted to the Social Sciences Institute at Akdeniz University (Antalya, Turkey) under the supervision of Dr. Gülser Öztunalı Kayır, who was full time faculty in the Department of Public Administration.

Within the scope of the thesis the experiences of women’s associations and initiatives in İstanbul, Ankara, Diyarbakır and Van were to be elaborated [with a view to] the liberal, socialist and feminist peace theories.

Peace - an ambiguous word

But the Director of the Social Sciences Institute, Zekeriya Karadavut objected to the thesis proposal. He justified his objection on the grounds that it “contradicted” the notice that the Prime Ministry issued “On the Public Officials Related to those Organizations and Structures Which Pose a Threat National Security.” [1]

Karadavut considered some of the expressions in the thesis proposal that was submitted in March to be inconvenient and issued a written statement for its re-assessment within the scope of the Prime Ministry’s notice. The expressions, which were considered to be inappropriate by Karadavut are listed as follows: ‘The peace building process in the cities in Turkey,’ ‘Liberal, socialist and feminist peace theories,’ ‘Women in peace struggles,’ ‘The definition of peace by women living in İstanbul, Diyarbakır and Van.’

For Karadavut, who stated that these expressions could not be understood clearly, ‘peace’ was among such expressions: While “the word peace is defined as the situation after the end of war is stated by a treaty’ in the outline of the thesis, it appears as a randomly used term as if in slang language with no connection to official and scientific terminology - if this does not connote a different intention. Apart from that, the fact that some structures that are perceived to pursue illegal activities under the
guise of legality are shareholders to the thesis makes the thesis contradict with the [Prime Ministery’s] related notice.”

Consequently it was found appropriate to revise the thesis in line with the Prime Ministry’s notice of terrorism, concerning the public officials. Therewith the Head of the Unit, Dr. Erol Esen asked Kayır to see to it that the required revisions be made.

Professor’s dissent

Kayır argued that the university administrations are obligated to implement the decisions of the Council of Higher Education through a filtering system that prioritizes scientific freedom and autonomy. When her objection was not taken into consideration Kayır stated that illegal and non-scientific practices, and pressures against the faculty and students have increased in the last years
and resigned from her post as supervisor.

Under the organization of Mor Çatı Women’s Shelter Foundation [2] and with the participation of 35 women’s organizations from Bodrum to Antalya, İzmir and Çanakkale women’s movements issued a declaration of support with Kayır. In the declaration it was stated that one of the responsibilities of the universities is to offer solutions to societal problems and that “Peace building is our country’s primary problem and it is clear that analyzing the issue is a fundamental responsibility of the universities.”
[1] The notice was issued on February 17, 2016 in the Official Gazette. teror-genelgesi/siyaset/detay/2195567/default.htm