"It would be better if you didn't publish
anything like that again." The boss says one should be careful not to
create any trouble. That's how the spiral of distrust and censorship begins.
Then a person gets fired for signing a petition. Suddenly the authorities know
what a person has written in private emails or what they have said on their
mobile phone. In the worst cases, people get arrested and tortured because they
attended a protest for peace. Already today, few dare to tell journalists what
is happening in Turkey. Three academics and researchers agreed to because we
are posting their accounts without their names or any details that might hint at
"I can't send my children to university here"
If you were to write what my area of research
is, the state organs would immediately recognize who I am. That could cost me
my job and charges might even be filed against me. My work isn't actually
political. I work in the field of evidence-based natural science. But even in
my field, there are things that displease the Erdoğan government
and the Gülen supporters who have been and will be suspended from the universities by the
I have been feeling this for 10 years -- I have been harassed and put under pressure. My supervisor ordered me directly to stop publishing the truth. And my phone is tapped -- it has been for a long time.
Like many other government employees, I was asked after the coup attempt to return to my job and carry on as before. The summer holiday is cancelled for everyone. You need an exit permit for fieldwork or conference visits abroad. I don't know if I will still be able to get any of these. All university directors must submit lists of names of alleged Gülen supporters by August 5. They could then be dismissed. I'm afraid that the other researchers among us who just want to work independently will come next. Erdoğan wants religious, conservative scientists. Free research has long been almost impossible -- and not just since the coup attempt.
The Gülen supporters have also been asserting a lot of pressure on the universities for years now. Since they control the majority of public research spending, I no longer get money for projects. Still, I will not allow myself to be forced to publish only research that conforms to the official line. But I know of colleagues who recently published the most absurd theories under this pressure -- beyond any evidence. Because I stay independent in my science, I am dependent on international funding. With plenty of good colleagues getting dismissed, this funding will be even harder to obtain in the future. In the next step, Erdoğan could replace them with his supporters, no matter what kind of professional qualification they have. The quality of science will suffer further under this. My former PhD students are desperate. They do not know how to proceed. Should I let them down now and leave?
I've been thinking about going abroad for a long time, but I have children. At the moment, it would be far too dangerous. If I did anything suspicious right now, the authorities would classify me as a Gülen follower. At the airports, high government officials from all areas -- they can be recognized by their green passports -- are waved from the queue, interrogated and asked for special permits and documents. As a Turk, I am used to such intimidating treatment at borders from many countries where I have traveled. Now I experience the same thing when I want to go home.
So far, I still have my job. My parents live
here and I am fighting for my research. As a woman, you learn early to
persevere -- especially as one of the few women in science. All this has made
me a lot thicker-skinned. On the other hand, I can't let my kids go to
university here. And if it is no longer possible to do proper science in
Turkey, is it really worth ruining you career and having your family live under
oppression? Slowly, this is all making me tired. But if I get through this
phase, it might make me even stronger. I won't give up. But I do desperately
need a holiday.