The Modern Kronus: Turkey and its Students

In Greek Mythology, it was Kronus who devoured his young, fearful that they might one day grow up to rebel against him.  In modern Turkey, it is the Republic itself.

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A few days ago, we noted the almost tragicomic news that Prime Minister Erdogan was filing a defamation claim against high school students who had made fun of him as part of a student protest.  Such lawsuits are part of a larger system for promoting self-censorship in Turkey.

Far worse are the thousands of arrests that have been made under anti-terror statutes.

On Friday, came the news that Sevil Sevimli, a French student of Turkish origin who had studied in Turkey as an exchange student, was sentenced to more than five years in prison for “being a member of a terrorist organization” and “spreading propaganda.”  As the English-language Hurriyet Daily News notes, “[charges] in the indictment against her included participation in May Day demonstrations, unfurling a banner on which ‘We want free education’ was written and watching a concert by Grup Yorum, a left-wing band. “

Cases such as that of Sevimli, are as I noted in an article late last year, shockingly common in Turkey.  Indeed, the Ministry of Justice has recently disclosed that nearly three thousand students are currently in Turkish jails on charges similar to those under which Sevimli has been sentenced.

Turkish authorities recognize that these cases are an international embarrassment and are reportedly considering measures to the address the problem.  How many young lives will be destroyed while they deliberate?

Howard Eissenstat, St. Lawrence University

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