20 July 2016, No. 13/2016

Disgraceful for a democracy

Humboldt Foundation criticizes Turkey’s treatment of researchers.

“Particularly in politically difficult times, scientists and scholars who work at an international level and are internationally networked are important for the relations between countries such as Germany and Turkey. Above all however, scientific freedom and the intellectual and societal potential that researchers offer are important for a constructive social dialogue and for a nation’s ability to deal with the challenges of the future. Restricting the mobility of scientists and scholars, dismissals and harassment seriously compromise this potential and are disgraceful for a democracy. In light of this, we are very concerned about the developments of the last several months and particularly since the attempted coup“, said Enno Aufderheide, Secretary General of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. 

German media report today that the Turkish government is prohibiting scientists and scholars from making official trips abroad. According to these reports scientists and scholars who are currently abroad are supposed to return to Turkey. The government is also calling on university rectors to check whether their scientific and academic personnel possibly have links to the Fethullah Gülen movement.

12 Turkish scientists are presently in Germany with financial assistance from the Humboldt Foundation. Should they have to return to Turkey at short notice, the Humboldt Foundation will give them the option of interrupting their fellowship and then resuming it at a later point in time, Aufderheide said. “We will do what we can to support our Turkish fellows and award winners, irrespective of whether they are currently in Germany or Turkey”, he noted.

The Humboldt Foundation network includes some 320 Turkish scientists and scholars, most of whom live and work in Turkey. As part of the Philipp Schwartz Initiative for endangered researchers, the Foundation recently made it possible for six Turkish researchers who fled their country to receive a fellowship that enables them to work under safe conditions at a university in Germany. 

The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation

Every year, the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation enables more than 2,000 researchers from all over the world to spend time researching in Germany. The Foundation maintains a network of well over 27,000 Humboldtians from all disciplines in more than 140 countries worldwide – including 52 Nobel Prize winners.

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