Thursday, August 24, 2017

Exile Academy in Germany for Refugee Schollars from the Middle East

Greetings from the Australian National University in Canberra, where Dr Kader Konuk, Chair of Turkish Studies, Universit├Ąt Duisburg-Essen, is speaking on "Scholars at Risk: Populism, Islamism, and the Current Flight of Academics to Europe". Dr Konuk outlined the erosion of academic freedom in parts of the world. She pointed out restrictions on academics in the USA during  1950s McCarthyism and recent cuts to climate change research. Dr Konuk then went back further to the 1930s and academics in exile from Nazi Germany.

Moving to the centerpiece of her message, Dr Konuk  outlined the history of secular universities in Turkey, after the founding of the republic in 1923. Turkey has had multiple military coups from 1960 to 1980, but the failed coup in 2016 has been followed by even tighter regulation of universities. Dr Konuk pointed out that in 1933, 40 exiled scholars from Germany were hired by Istanbul University, but today academic exiles from Turkey need help in Germany.

Dr Konuk's description of the treatment of academics by the state reminded me of the "Authorized Systematic Harassment" depicted by the 1978 dystopian TV series "1990". In the episode "", the state used bureaucratic processes to implement relentless harassment of opponents.

For someone at an Australian university, where we take academic freedom as a given, this was a sobering talk. Dr Konuk asked us to examine the relationship between universities and the nation state. She applied for funding to start a forum to discuss academic freedom and to provide facilities for scholars in exile to be able to continue their work.

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