In 2016, 1,128 academics signed a petition calling on Turkey’s government to cease armed conflict with Kurdish militants. President Erdogan accused them of treason. The scholars’ universities duly expelled them. Now those who can are leaving Turkey. Others are on trial for “terrorism propaganda”.
Since the Kurdish petition was signed in 2016, 698 Turkish academics have applied to the New York-based organization Scholars at Risk to be moved abroad to a safe position.
Since the failed coup of July 2016, in which more than 260 people were killed, a wave of emigration from Turkey has quickened. The post-coup clampdown has seen 60,000 people arrested and 150,000 dismissed or ‘suspended’.
There is also a broader exodus from the country’s secular side, as the grip of religious nationalism grows tighter. Among them are more than 4,500 Turkish Jews who have applied to Spain and Portugal for nationality – a considerable proportion of Turkey’s small Jewish population.
The two countries are offering nationality to atone for the expulsion of Iberian Jews during the 15th Century Inquisition, when the Ottoman Empire absorbed a large number. Many more non-Jewish Turks are also trying to move there.
One man moving his whole family to Spain said “It breaks my heart that I’m leaving – but I can’t breathe here anymore. My thoughts are not wanted; the way I want to live is not wanted. We now have to choose a side. If it’s not the right side, your business won’t grow or you can’t express your feelings – otherwise you’ll have trouble. You need to be Muslim, Sunni and pro-government.”
Press freedom has also been under threat in Turkey. More journalists are in Turkish jails than any other country.
If you want to help the families of the thousands of jailed educators and journalists visit the site: https://www.generosity.com/fundraising/help-victims-of-turkey-purge–2
Rabbi Maller’s book ‘Judaism and Islam as Synergistic Monotheisms: One Rabbi’s Reflections on the Profound Connectedness between Islam and Judaism’ (31 articles by Rabbi Maller first published by Islamic web sites) is for sale ($15) on Amazon and Morebooks.