‘Our first concerns are with the students and staff affected by the political situation in Turkey’, the RUG’s statement reads. ‘The association of universities in the Netherlands (VSNU) supports the statement of the EUA, in which European universities condemn the actions directed at Turkish universities and its staff.’
The RUG’s statement encourages concerned students and staff to contact the International Student Desk and the HR Information Desk. In a separate statement, RUG spokesperson Gernant Deekens says that the university is also working to determine if there are any RUG students or staff currently working or studying in Turkey.
‘We are also looking into whether RUG students and staff from Turkey have received an email where they have been requested to return’, Deekens says. The UK corresponded with several Turkish researchers employed at the RUG, all of whom said they had yet to be contacted by any authorities in Turkey about their positions abroad. All of them requested anonymity.
One researcher says that although he has not had any correspondence with Turkish authorities so far, he is not sure the university would really care if he was called upon to travel back to Turkey. He already knows of scholars in Turkey who are being prevented from leaving the country. One of his friends contacted the Turkish Ministry of Education to inquire about whether it was permitted to travel outside of Turkey currently, and he was informed that no one can leave the country right now. ‘However, one of the PhDs who is studying in the US just left the country today. I am not sure whether they will call me back or not, which is really concerning me these days.’
As of Wednesday, Turkish academics were banned from travelling abroad, including for professional reasons, reportedly to prevent anyone who may have been involved in plotting the attempted coup from fleeing the country. Following an apparent effort by military forces, thousands of professionals in a range of Turkish fields, 1,500 deans and 21,000 educators – among thousands of other professionals – have been either fired or suspended on suspicion of connections to the supposed coordinator of the coup, Fethullah Gulen.
Two other researchers approached for comment immediately stated that their academic work here had no connections to Gulen, an imam who has been living in the United States since 1999 who is a former ally of Turkish President Recep Erdogan.
One Turkish researcher replied, ‘I was not approached by anyone. I never had any scholarships from Gulen group, got all achievements with my own efforts.’ He explains that making that distinction is important, given the thousands of students who were taught in schools affiliated with Gulen since the 1980s. According to the New York Times, Gulen is the inspiration for a network of academic institutions across the globe but many of the scholars in Turkey who have been impacted by the post-coup purge deny that they have any affiliation with the schools.
Another Turkish RUG employee who is on vacation in the east of Turkey at the moment, emphasised that he has no connections to the Turkish government, and stated that he does not expect to be contacted by any authorities because he is not a Gulen supporter.
‘To be honest, I do not feel secure’, he says. ‘I came here for vacation, but I feel really upset about the situation. I hope people will not suffer with this situation.’ In the east of the country, far from the streets of Ankara and Istanbul, he says the atmosphere is fairly stable, but he is still closely monitoring the news.
He sees statements by Dutch academic entities, including the RUG, as a reassuring gesture. ‘It’s good to hear that the RUG supports the academics’ he says. ‘[The VSNU statement] is really helpful and nice for those students and academics in case they have any trouble.’
He says that he personally believes that it is plausible that the academics who have been targeted could have connections to Gulen’s educational initiatives in Turkey. ‘Gulen has so many connections with people in the army, the government and the police’, he says. ‘I know that Gulen helped many academics to get their positions in the universities – maybe not Gulen directly, but they have an organised system.’
‘My only concern is that the government will associate wrong people to this Gulen group and they will lose their jobs’, he says. ‘I am so upset to see that people are dying because of the wrong politics.’