There is nothing better to describe the state of academics in Turkey than the news that a street gangster who threatened the College of Political Science of Ankara University and posed with his gun drawn, pointing towards the scientists there just became an assistant to teach in the very same college
There is nothing better to describe the state of academics in Turkey than the news that a street gangster who threatened the College of Political Science of Ankara University and posed with his gun drawn, pointing towards the scientists there just became an assistant to teach in the very same college. So, crime does pay, maybe?
Many people knew the academics and the university community in general would be under attack when against all laws and constitutional dictums somebody who does not hold a college degree to became the president of Turkey. What became was far worse, the entire system of education was dismantled in Turkey.
The issue is not only a lack of a diploma or a college degree. However, the corruption and the lies and tricks used and deployed to hide the facts on the missing diploma was only the beginning. The Turkish president is required to possess a college degree, but there are serious claims that the prime minister Erdoğan clearly did not have one. However, his passion to become the one and only leader, in the service of Turkish capitalism, Islam, and the neo-Ottoman cause, an imperialist in his own right, would stop at nothing. Laws and the constitution be damned.
However, it would be wrong to assume that the hatred against what universities represent is something new. The history of a well-educated students challenging the system and being the hotbed of socialism and revolution documents why the Turkish regimes throughout the years have despised higher education. In this historic animosity against the independence and innocent demands of justice, democracy, equality, ecological sustainability, socialism and the rights that the students demanded, the current government of AKP, the ruling party, led by Erdoğan holds a special place. What is different with this administration is that the entire education system is under attack and is being wiped out. One can very easily understand the contempt the AKP holds against education, progress, and free thought. Claiming to bring the old and dead Ottoman Empire back to life has to at some point emulate the old empire’s fear and hatred against education. Education was seen as an adversary to Islamic scholarship and posed an existential threat to the very being of the Turkish Empire that finally crumbled in the face of rising capitalism in the west. Yet, this does not bother the neo-Ottomans like AKP leaders with no higher education to understand the importance of quality schooling. They think learning Quran is sufficient to understand the universe.
Very much like Trump in the US, Erdoğan has rallied the streets, and in a way organized, the lumpen proletariat and the discontent of the hungry masses against an “elite” educated class who they claim have kept the masses from the fruits of the nation. However, rather than promoting better education, well-paying jobs, developing opportunities for the uneducated, Erdoğan and his cronies attacked the secular education institutions that produced potential experts. Instead of raising the level of education, they brought it down to the religious, mysterious, mythical, banal levels posing as the ultimate knowledge.
Public universities were first brought under strict government rule with direct appointment of administrators who were close allies and loyal stooges of the Islamic administration. The middle and high schools were nearly all changed into Islamic schools with mandatory religion classes and adhering to Islamic tradition in education instead of science. The relative autonomy of the universities was dismantled. Instead of merit, knowledge, being an expert in the field, or research, anybody who would show loyalty to the AKP party was given seats in the academia, a well-paying job as long as one supported the government. Higher education institutions started to become personal fiefdoms of families like some universities hiring the entire staff and teachers from the family of the rector or where the appointed rector holds more than a dozen chairs and teaching positions in the school and receiving a paycheck from each.
The breaking point for the university system came when those academicians who still had a spine left stood up and signed an open letter to the government that they would not take part in the crimes the government was commuting in the eastern parts of the country and in the south.
Erdoğan had cast away any previous pretenses to make a deal that promised more civil and human rights to the Kurds in the East and was now attacking the neighboring countries, namely Iraq and Syria, in an effort to crush the Kurds there. In these operations, many towns, cities, villages and the countryside where the Kurds lived was under a heavy attack with dozens of women and children slaughtered and burned alive in their homes. The Turkish army was using heavy artillery against its own citizens and its own towns and cities. And the academicians reacted.
The letter signed by hundreds of academicians was not welcome in a dictatorial country, as one would expect. With a presidential decree, with no recourse in the court of law, justice, or appeal, first hundreds, then thousands of academicians were simply fired from the schools. The administration had latched on to this letter of protest to “clean out the den of evil”, the higher education. As thousands of academicians and teachers were let go, even their right to ever teach again was taken, trying to condemn them to hunger. Since then, several academicians and several teachers have ended their own lives in the humiliation of being outcast in the society and being targeted as being “terrorist supporters.” Other fired academicians are trying to survive by running small cafes or living with friends and family.
The attack was so deep and severe that many universities were left with only a few academicians behind and unable to continue education as they had before. The crisis was already there when previously the government had opened universities right and left with no planning or even an understanding on how to conduct education without having sufficient professors, classes, equipment or labs. But nobody cared. The new universities would be administered just like the Islamic schools, top-down, hierarchical, with nobody daring to ask any questions. The firing of thousands of academicians in the middle of this deep crises obviously brought the higher education system to a screeching halt. But, again, nobody cared.
Who needs qualified professors? The AKP mentality is that as long as you are loyal to the government you are qualified to be an academician. This would also eliminate the problems created by independent thinking scholars, scientists and experts who kept on embarrassing the gradually increasing stupidity of the current government in every field. The latest example of claiming an all Turkish vehicle being prepared for production demonstrates how Turkey approaches technology, production and science. Turkish government brought an Italian car, with dashboard controls in English that had been displayed in China two years earlier and claimed it was the Turkish car. Having no factory, no plans, no production units, no design or any part producing plants did not deter the government to brazenly suggest this was a completely Turkish made car.
The organization of Science and Research has given an award for unique and innovative discovery to a breadbox that has a light bulb inside and turns on when the cover is opened. One other such scientific project that gets government support is the tests the students are conducting that measures how plants grow better and healthier when someone whispers prayers to its leaves.
As many people observed, now anybody taken from the street could become an academician. And they did.
Today, Turkish academia enjoys a whole set of “professor” rectors who either have no published papers on their field or whose papers have not even once been referenced by any other academician or researcher in the world.
A whole university staff of lecturers parade on TV channels every night claiming that the night and day are distinct creations by Allah, existing simultaneously and independently and take over each other during the course of a day when Allah orders them to. Some professors give explanations on how Noah used a cell phone to communicate with his son, or, how he sent a drone from his Arc to see if any land was in sight. Another professor contributed to the discussion of the controversial new canal the government wants to build in Istanbul and the people are resisting against. He, as an expert professor, justified the building of the completely unnecessary canal by professing that, “If the whole Black Sea explodes one day, we will need the canal.” Then, as an afterthought, he wondered aloud on TV, “Yes, yes, if the Black Sea explodes, the canal too will explode.” And these “professors” are not challenged by others on why or how or when would a big sea explode.
Just when everyone thought the attack and humiliation on a decent academia was at its lowest and could not descent further, the University of Ankara proved everyone wrong.
Last week the University of Ankara hired a known goon, an armed street thug, a gangster, to teach the students. Yes, an armed gun, pointing his weapon on the very college that later hired him, had taken a pride in his picture targeting the school and shared it on his social media labeling the photograph as “The picture of the year.” This, in fact, summarized the approach of the AKP government against education.
The protests and complaints against Murat Anıl Varol, the armed hoodlum who was at that time a student in the College of Law, had forced an inquiry into this affair by the school but nobody knows what came out of this investigation. And, no authority is willing to give an answer. While journalists, concerned students, and other academicians were trying to get an answer on the outcome, one can imagine the surprise they faced when they found out that the guy being investigated for pointing a gun was just hired as a professor’s assistant in the College of Trade Law.
The outrage spilled over to the National Assembly. An opposition representative, Sezgin Tanrıkulu, gave an official question to be answered by the Presidential Assistant Fuat Oktay:
- Is it true that the school of law student Murat Anıl Varol who has pointed his gun towards the Faculty of Political Science has been appointed as an assistant to the Faculty of Political Science?
- How do you explain that weapons are being brought into the school?
- Does Murat Anıl Varol have a permit to carry a gun? Whose gun was used and who holds the permit for that gun?
- Has any ballistic test been done on the weapon Murat Anıl Varol is pointing towards the faculty to see if it has been used in any crime?
- Is there an ongoing inquiry for the threat by Murat Anıl Varol? What is the status of the inquiry, if there is one?
- Is there any truth to the rumors that the inquiry against Murat Anıl Varol is being shut down and a cover up is in progress?
The students, on the other hand, have reacted to the news that an armed thug will be teaching in their school. This affair has been labelled the “Most Embarrassing Event of the Year” by the student organizations.