Scholars to Erdoğan: Persecution of Professor Şık shows your disregard for academic freedom and public healthBreaking News
tags: Turkey, academic freedom
In a letter to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Professor Dina Rizk Khoury, president of the US-based Middle East Studies Association (MESA), urged that all charges against Professor Bülent Şık, a food engineer working on public health and food safety, be dropped and that the “government’s campaign of harassment against professional and academic organizations” be ceased.
In the letter, co-signed by Chair of the MESA Committee on Academic Freedom Laurie Brand, the scholars said the persecution of Professor Şık is symptomatic of the Erdoğan government’s disregard for both academic freedom and public health.
Professor Şık was first targeted for publishing his findings on the contamination of soil, food, air and water by carcinogenic industrial chemicals in the southern city of Antalya, the Ergene district of the western city of Tekirdağ and the industry-dense Dilovası district of the western city of Kocaeli.
Between 2011 and 2016 he took part in a study launched by Turkey’s Ministry of Health which yielded disturbing findings that the ministry suppressed and hid from the public. After several years of waiting for the ministry to address the findings, Professor Şık decided to unilaterally disclose those that concerned the cancer risks posed by toxic pollution in western Turkey.
The Ministry of Health filed a lawsuit against Şık alleging that he had disseminated “classified information” and that the disclosure was unauthorized, in violation of his duties of confidentiality. On 26 September 2019, he was sentenced to 15 months in prison for “disclosing classified information.” He was acquitted on the count of “obtaining classified information” without due authorization. Professor Şık is appealing the sentence.
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