As is widely known, recent events in Turkey have been quite turbulent. A coup attempt against the Erdogun government failed, and unknown thousands of military personnel have been arrested. Since the failure of the July 15 coup, however, many other Turkish citizens have been arrested, or held without charges, and denied access to family, friends, and legal counsel. One of those recently taken into custody was Professor Vedat Demir, who spent the academic years 2012-2014 here in Ithaca, affiliated with both Cornell and Ithaca College.  

Professor Demir received his Ph. D. from Istanbul University, and taught in that university’s Department of Public Relations and Publicity for many years. His teaching and research have focused on the recent expanding nature of Turkish politics, particularly the role of volunteer campaign workers—a process he thought was a force for democratic engagement. He is also a past general secretary of the Turkish Press Council and a weekly contributor to the national daily newspaper, Yarina Bakis

During his time in Ithaca, Demir studied the nature of political communication in American federal elections in the hope, a relative explained, “of laying a foundation in Turkish elections.” Demir has also been a public critic of the current Turkish government, using his newspaper columns to call for more democratic reforms.

On July 20, 2016, Professor Demir, along with 95 colleagues at Istanbul University, were suspended from their academic positions. Unknown numbers of faculty members at other universities were as well. On Sunday, July 24, at 3:30 a.m., the police took him into custody, searched both house and office, and detained him without stating the charges against him. Since then, he has been held incommunicado—neither family nor his lawyer has been allowed to meet with him. 

On August 3, Demir was brought into court, arrested, accused of being a supporter of the recently failed coup, and sent to prison. How long he will be held and when a trial might be held remains unknown. Demir has been a staunch opponent of the coup, and his critique of contemporary Turkish politics has been in support of greater democratic rights throughout his career. 

We here in Ithaca are physically distant from events in Turkey. However, through Amnesty International, and specifically the local Ithaca branch, we can join with others internationally to protest these violations of human rights. Please contact the Ithaca branch of Amnesty through Uta Ritz-Deutch [utaeritzdeutch@yahoo.com] or E. Wayles Browne [ewb2@cornell.edu}. Together we can shed more light on the very difficult circumstances facing Professor Demir and so many other Turkish citizens.

 

– Nick Salvatore, Ithaca

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