The TÜBİTAK scandal should be an eye opener

Those following Turkey closely in Europe have no doubt noted the TÜBITAK scandal, the Turkish Scientific and Technical Board, with great consternation, while asking themselves the question, "where is Turkey headed?"

For a government appointee, a supposed "scientist" himself to boot, to censor the board’s magazine "Bilim ve Teknik" because its editor put Darwin on the cover, in commemoration of the 200th birthday of the father of the theory of evolution, is so elemental an indication of a warped mentality that it can not be easily overlooked.

For him, in addition to that, to fire the editor is even more concerning. He and the minister involved are of course denying that this happened but the lady concerned is adamant that she was told verbally that she no longer had her job. Under these circumstances her account is of course more convincing, even if there was a stepping down on this score by the authorities because of the public outcry caused by this scandal.

Neither is this the first misdemeanor of this administration in this respect. Some will recall how, two years ago, the Minster for Education himself came out with a suggestion that the creation theory should be placed in biology books as the "alternative view."

It is not surprising therefore that a senior European diplomat should have told us, immediately after the TÜBITAK scandal broke out, that this shows the direction that Turkey would go if the government, which has taken hold of the administration, also got hold of real power in this country.

The fact that each administration has filled key institutions of the state and other organizations attached to the state with its own people is nothing new in Turkey. A look at the past reveals this to be the rule and not the exception. Therefore one may in all innocence say: "So why blame the present government. It is only doing what everyone else has done in the past."

But there is a naivety in this assertion which has to be highlighted. In the past this process took place along party lines. In other words it represented the currying of favor on the basis of partisanship. If we take TÜBITAK, for example, it would mean that one party’s favored scientist would go, and another party’s favored scientist would take his place.

It would not mean, however, that the scientists that replaced each other had different views on basic scientific tenets or laws. Even if there were ideological differences on political lines because one was a leftist and the other a rightist, it would not represent an attempt at a systemic change.

What has transpired in TÜBITAK now, however, differs fundamentally from this. It represents an attempt to change the basic system of scientific thought, with all that this denotes in term of the political domain, and as such points to a very different type of system which is clearly not democratic and certainly not secular.

Therefore to take this scandal lightly, and suggest that it is no different to what all previous administrations did, is to miss the whole point of what some in Turkey are attempting to do, and no doubt would get away with if the administration had absolute and unchecked power in its hands.

It seems now that two members of the European Parliament, Marco Cappato and Marco Pannella have asked the European Commission to "evaluate the consequences of the violation of fundamental rights, in this case the right to freedom of expression and freedom of scientific research, on the cooperation between Turkey and the EU on scientific issues."

Emma Bonnino, the deputy head of the Italian Senate has also issue a stern statement on the subject expressing her hope that a clear warning will be issued by the EU on this subject.

We have also noted that there is growing discomfort among some European diplomats in Ankara about the relative leniency with which the European Commission has been approaching some of the misdemeanors of the present government.

The hope now is that the scandal in TÜBITAK will be a true eye opener for all. The EU clearly has a very important role to play in keeping this government in line vis a vis democratic and secular principles. The sorry state of the opposition makes this role even more important and vital for Turkey if she is to remain on the path of modernity.

As one European diplomat told us, the government does not have the right to claim interference in Turkey’s domestic politics in this case. If it is genuine about EU membership then it has to accept such interference as being part of the rules of the game. If it is not serious, on the other hand, then it has to come out and say this openly.

At any rate it is a fact that some of the steps taken by this government, whether in domestic or foreign policy, are being followed closely and with concern in the West. This is why it is incumbent on friends of Turkey to issue the correct warnings at the appropriate time.

As for those who are not friends of Turkey and would like to keep her away from Europe, they must be following all this with glee.
Yazarın Tüm Yazıları