It rarely happens that texts about German university events cause a sensation in Turkey.

The polemic that the Turkologist David Selim Sayers and his wife Evrim Emir-Sayers published on the website of the Paris Institute for Critical Thinking in November 2021 is one of these exceptions.

It was picked up by the central Anadolu news agency, commented on in blogs and newspapers and, depending on journalistic temperament, discussed as a description of the situation of the neoliberal university or the post-colonial cored Turkey Studies.

In Germany it remained remarkably quiet.

Here the essay, which almost everyone in Turkology knows, became the subject of a court case.

Thomas Thiel

Editor in the Feuilleton.

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What makes him so interesting?

On 25 pointedly written pages with 164 footnotes, the two authors argue that an academic industry has developed around flight and migration that has made compassion a business model.

They describe how the studies on Turkey have become the shell of the financial and supply interests of unimaginative academic networkers, and conclude with a dark picture of the situation in Turkology, which has lost intellectual substance the more it has been sucked into this type of scientist.

The accusation is aimed directly at the Turkology professor Kader Konuk and the Academy in Exile she directs.

Konuk, who teaches at the University of Duisburg-Essen, launched the refugee project in September 2017 to offer a scientific refuge to the Turkish "Academics for Peace", who had come under pressure after a protest against President Erdogan's Kurdish policy.

With more than fifty scholarship holders and more than five million euros raised, the third-party funded project operated by the University of Duisburg-Essen, the Forum Transregionale Studien Berlin and the Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities (KWI) and based at the KWI is a success story by the numbers.

repression and persecution

For the authors, on the other hand, it is just a morally disguised third-party funding machine that distributes funds not according to scientific qualifications and political dangers, but according to proximity to the network.

Kader Konuk, who is or was director, advisor and member of the selection committee at the same time, comes first for her.

The financiers, above all the Volkswagen Foundation, which supported the third-party project with several million euros, obviously accept this.

Shouldn't an initiative that is directed against the consequences of autocracy and despotism place more value on the allocation of offices?

In some places, the pamphlet overshoots the mark.

In fact, as the authors criticize, the scholarships in the first two years went almost exclusively to members of the Academics for Peace.

However, this can be explained pragmatically.

The Peace Academics were being persecuted by the Turkish government at the time.

The repression ended when the Turkish Supreme Court declared it wrong in July 2019.

The danger was averted, and the scholarships from the Academy were extended to other countries.

On the Academy in Exile website, the essay is presented as a politically motivated troll without justification.

Konuk demanded the deletion of 25 passages and a cease and desist declaration from David Selim Sayers, whom she tried to push into the right-wing corner with a NS comparison.

According to a judgment by the Essen Regional Court, Sayers had to black out seven passages.

Most concern polemical tips.

The court, however, rejected the deletion.

The abridged essay can still be viewed on the homepage of the Paris Institute for Critical Thinking, which is run by the author couple.

What is the point of the criticism?

Break with the selection of the best

To judge that, you have to go back almost three years.

The ball started rolling when David Selim Sayers applied for an assistant professorship in Duisburg-Essen Turkish Studies in August 2019 and claims to have noticed that less qualified candidates from the Academy in Exile environment had been preferred to him.

Sayers lodged a complaint with the university president.

The university broke off the appointment procedure due to significant shortcomings, but did not want to name them in more detail when asked.