Defending academic freedom in Turkey

In the wake of last week’s failed coup, President Erdoğan of Turkey has been taking ‘decisive’ steps against those he claims or suspects were involved in the organisation of the coup or otherwise supported it. This has included people involved in the education sector: 21,000 teachers have had their licences revoked, over 1.5 thousand university deans have been instructed to resign, and a ban on international travel for professional purposes has been placed on all university academics.

There is, of course, concern that these activities are not only oriented towards removing ‘plotters’ from public life, but also quietening all opposition to the Erdoğan regime and, thus, greatly undermining critical democratic spaces represented by universities and other educational settings. I spoke about this yesterday on the Russia Today news channel and the interview and associated news story is available here.

I have also started a petition, which so far has over 600 signatures, directed specifically towards expressing solidarity to our academic colleagues in Turkey and asking President Erdoğan to rethink and revoke the travel ban. Please do consider signing it and share it widely.

There is also an open letter here, condemning the purge in Turkish universities, which I would also encourage people to sign.

The more support our colleagues in Turkey get from their international colleagues, the better.

Reaction to Obama’s Speech on NSA Reform

Following a much-anticipated speech by President Obama outlining the broad parameters of reform of the NSA, I published two columns. The first, in The Conversation UK, emphasised the need to react cautiously to the speech. While, in its tone, the Obama speech suggested a firm embrace of the idea that security and liberty are complementary–rather than oppositional–concepts, the detail in the speech was light. It is that detail that will, of course, allow us ultimately to assess the meaningfulness of the proposed reform.

In a second column, on Human Rights in Ireland, I reflected on the prevention paradigm that continues to frame Obama’s approach to counter-terrorism. Of course, the US is not alone in this; preventing rather than reacting to is a core element of counter-terrorism in the UK and EU as well as in the United States. However, in all cases it is important that we are cautious and aware of the implications of a preventative mentality for decision making, policy making, and operations in the CT field. No real assessment of policy reforms or even legislative measures can be done unless we take the implications of preventativeness into account.