Educators in exile following Turkey coup

by Isobel Yeung
Oct 24 2016, 7:56am

This segment originally aired Oct. 18, 2016, on VICE News Tonight on HBO

After a failed coup attempt against his government, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan initiated an unprecedented crackdown against his country’s universities. Many professors who escaped imprisonment left the country, creating an international diaspora of Turkish educators.

VICE News travels to Georgia to meet Maya Arakon, an associate professor who fled Turkey to the United States. Arakon says she feels like the coup changed her home country. “I felt like, oh my god, this is not Turkey,” she says.

In Turkey, Arakon had her own television program where she analyzed Turkish politics. She says her platform put her in a precarious position, and after two colleagues were arrested, she decided to leave Turkey. “I knew the purge would eventually touch me, too,” Arakon says.

Arakon worked for a university affiliated with the Gülen movement, a political group Erdogan holds responsible for the coup. Arakon says she has no connections to the group, but the nature of her work on Kurdish people and international terrorism organizations were “delicate questions” within Turkey. She took the job because, “nobody dared to hire me.”