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Erdogan Calls on Turkish Scientists to Return Home; They Find It ‘Funny’

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan urged Turkish scientists living abroad to come back home, a call that received a number of sneering responses from academics both at home and abroad, due to the fact that hundreds of intellectuals and journalists are currently in jail.

Erdogan announced on Friday that the government is set to launch a campaign to lure Turkish scientists into returning home, citing importance of “local and national technology”.

“I am calling on our scientists all around the world to come join the science and technology move we have started in our country,” he said, during his speech at the event titled TEKNOFEST Istanbul Aviation, Space and Technology Festival held at Istanbul’s new airport scheduled to open next month.

The president’s invitation was met with sarcastic replies such as a tweet from philosophy professor Edip Yuksel, known for his works on modern Islam. Yuksel, who is currently based in the U.S. state of Arizona, said:

“Okay, I am coming, but can I be informed as to which prison I am going to work in?”

Speaking to the daily Evrensel, Elif Congur, an academic fired from Ankara University as part of the massive purge following 2016’s coup attempt, said “Top academics were discharged from the country’s universities. It is funny now that they are calling scientists back from abroad. They are calling us from other countries, as well, but we can’t go. Universities all around the world are inviting us to give lectures but we can’t go because they have seized our passports.”

Assistant professor Ali Ekber Dogan, a board member of Germany’s Academics for Peace Association, also interviewed by Evrensel, said that he did not believe sincerity of this call as it was coming from those behind “the attacks on democracy and liberties”.

Dogan stated that Turkey first needs to grant freedom of movement to the academics fired in relation to the July 15 coup attempt, as they are currently banned from leaving the country, as well as their benefits and unpaid compensations.

“One of the reasons of the brain drain from Turkey is the monopoly capital and the one-man-rule administering its destruction plan,” Dogan added.

Otorhinolaryngologist Dr. Mustafa Varlik, who said he was forced to leave the country due to the political climate and his concerns about the future, told Evrensel that “this kind of call is meaningless, while tons of scientists were sacked.”

Referring to academic recruitments without merit, Varlik stated that there is a need for independence at universities, adding “Without the culture of democracy and reinstating justice, qualified individuals will continue leaving the country.”

Commenting on Erdogan’s remarks, Yucel Demirer, an associate professor fired from Kocaeli University on a government decree, said “The current social and political climate in Turkey is not in the position of preventing people from going abroad, let alone calling scientists back home. Scientific research requires an environment allowing free thinking.”

He also said that the number of scientists going abroad has recently skyrocketed.

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