Letter to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan regarding continued and ongoing threats to academic freedom

Last week, many news outlets, monitoring agencies, and APSA members noted developing events following the failed coup attempt in Turkey, often with growing alarm. Per APSA’s Guide to Professional Ethics, Rights and Freedoms, we have written a letter expressing our deepest concern to the Turkish authorities, urging them to take all steps to fulfill their duties to protect academic freedom.

The letter is available on APSAnet.org and below.


Steven Rathgeb Smith, Executive Director


21 July 2016

H.E. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
President of the Republic of Turkey
T.C. Cumhurbaşkanlığı Genel Sekreterliği
06689 Çankaya, Ankara

Via Email: cumhurbaskanligi@tccb.gov.tr

To President Erdoğan:

We write to express our deepest concern and continued alarm regarding reports of purges, punitive measures, and other steps taken in a wholesale manner against political scientists and other scholars in Turkey, launched in the wake of a failed coup last week. We urge you, in the strongest possible terms, to ensure the safety and well-being of scholars who have been targeted, to  continue provision of due process of law, and to confirm that academic freedom remains a central component of Turkey’s commitment to higher education.

The American Political Science Association is a scholarly association that represents more than 13,000 U.S. and internationally based professors and students of political science. Our membership includes scholars within Turkey and scholars of Turkish politics.

We understand from media reports and monitoring organizations, including Scholars at Risk, that in the days following the attempted coup, Turkey’s Council of Higher Education (YÖK) ordered the resignations of over fifteen hundred faculty and deans at state and foundation universities; thousands of education ministry personnel were suspended from their positions; travel restrictions were placed on civil servants, including a number of higher education administrators; and academics abroad were instructed to return to Turkey. Like many, we are extremely concerned that the scale and speed of these responses represents a lack of due process and lack of specific evidence of involvement with the coup by the individuals who have been targeted. These steps suggest a broad campaign against intellectuals and intellectual expression, in violation of Turkey’s international and domestic legal obligations to protect institutional autonomy and academic freedom, including under Turkey’s constitution.

Absent any further (or contradictory) information – which we find hard to conceive of – we urge you to lead your government in honoring international and domestic legal obligations, including under the Turkish constitution, to protect institutional autonomy and academic freedom, and to reverse the actions taken and suspend further actions against Turkey’s higher education institutions, faculty, and staff.


Jennifer Hochschild

David A. Lake

Steven Rathgeb Smith
Executive Director

Cc: Bekir Bozdağ
Minister of Justice
06669 Kizilay
Ankara, Turkey
Fax: +90 312 419 3370

The Honorable John F. Kerry United States Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State 2201
C Street NW Washington, DC 20520

Ambassador Serdar Kılıç
Turkish Ambassador to the United States
2525 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W. Washington, D.C. 20008
Fax: 202-612-6744
Email: embassy.washingtondc@mfa.gov.tr

Ambassador John Bass
American Embassy Ankara
110 Atatürk Blvd.
Kavaklıdere, 06100 Ankara – Turkey
Fax: (90-312) 467-0019
Email: webmasterankara@state.gov

Ms. Victoria Nuland
Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs
U.S. Department of State
Fax: 202-736-4462

The Honorable Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
Palais des Nations, CH-1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland


  1. Thank you for representing us well and expressing the concerns of so many APSA members re Turkey and our solidarity with our fellow Turkish scholars and friends. Perhaps at some point we might have to consider doing more such as offering some fellowships or visiting professorship in US universities to Turkish scholars at risk.

    Best wishes,

    Catherine Guisan

  2. Colleagues
    I am grateful that APSA is one of the first major academic organizations to do this. It means a great deal for our Turkish colleagues.


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