Freedom of Speech? Not if You’re a Turkish Student

April 18, 2012

Recently, a group of faculty set up a white board outside a prison in Northwestern Turkey and proceeded to give lectures.  The students, unfortunately, were inside the prison and not allowed to attend.  Prof. Dr. Beyza Üstün from Yıldız University began the class by explaining

“We came here for our students under arrest. This is not their place, they should be at their classrooms.”

According to BIANET, the independent human rights news organization that reported on the faculty lectures, some 600 high school and university students are currently under arrest.  Their offenses vary: a number of students were arrested for selling concert tickets; some for demanding free education; some for taking part in demonstrations; one for carrying a sign that declared “Women are not slaves of men nor power”.  This particular student was found not guilty of “being a member to a terrorist organization”; however she and five other students were found guilty of making “propaganda of a terrorist organization”.

Sounds incredible?  Not when you take into account Turkey’s loosely written anti-terrorism laws, under which people expressing opinions that coincide with the opinions of “terrorist groups” are routinely sent to prison.

Almost six years ago, Amnesty International issued a major report on the flaws and potential for abuse of Turkey’s anti-terrorism laws, and campaigned against their being instituted.  As can be seen from the cases cited above, little has changed since the report was issued.  Nor has the quashing of free expression by students been limited to the Turkish justice system.  The Turkish minister of Education recently reported to the Turkish Parliament that in 2010 and 2011 a total of 7,043 college students have been subjected to disciplinary investigations at their colleges. 4,602 of them have received suspensions while 55 have been expelled.   If you are a student in Turkey, it probably would be wise to keep to yourself any political or social opinions you might have.

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