March 15, 2007


In yet another example of just how sensitive the Turkish establishment remains regarding any hint of dissident voices commenting on the orthodoxy of the establishment of modern Turkey, a professor of political science at Ankara's Gazi University was charged on Tuesday with allegedly insulting the legacy of Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey.

Professor Atilla Yayla, in a speech given last November, had stated that the era of one party rule under Ataturk from 1925 to 1945 was not as progressive as the official ideology would have Turks believe but was regressive in some aspects. He also criticized the omnipresent statues and paintings of Ataturk, saying that Europeans would be baffled to see such depictions of just one man all over Turkey.

Gazi University Chancellor, Kadri Yamac, was inundated with calls for Yayla's removal soon after the speech and temporarily removed him from his position pending an investigation.

Professor Yayla has stated that he was not insulting Ataturk personally but only questioning his legacy. "As an academic, I must be free to think, to search and share findings," Yayla, 50, has said in an interview at the Ankara-based Association for Liberal Thinking, an organization he co-founded in 1994. "If Turkey wants to be a civilized country, academics must be able to criticize and evaluate Ataturk's ideas."

The academic could receive up to three years in prison if tried and convicted. No trial date has been set as yet.


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