The Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding, tucked away in a corner on the second floor of the Intercultural Center, is responsible for fostering better relations between the Muslim world and the West through various lectures and events. The center also lists Ibrahim Kalin, the chief adviser to the president of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, as one of its senior fellows. While his high association in the Turkish government would appear to be an impressive connection for Georgetown, his name also represents a connection to a regime that actively represses academics and journalists in Turkey. Notably, in January, The Guardian reported that the government detained 27 academics for signing a petition denouncing Turkish attacks on Kurdish people. Kalin’s connection to the attack on academia in Turkey is not consistent with Georgetown’s values. A man with such a misunderstanding of the value of freedom of speech and press should not be a figurehead for a Georgetown center about interfaith dialogue.

Over 1,400 people, including philosopher and political activist Noam Chomsky, signed a petition asking Turkey’s government to end its “deliberate massacre and deportation of Kurdish people.” President Erdogan called the document terror propaganda and asked the judiciary to take action on those with signatures on the petition. The police responded by detaining members from the group “Academicians for Peace,” a group comprised of staff and teachers from over 90 Turkish universities. While local media groups reported the release of nearly all members, other international actors have expressed open criticism of the Turkish government. In a written statement from the U.S. Ambassador to Turkey John Bass, the diplomat expressed his worries about the Turkish government’s actions towards its own people and stated he was “concerned about this pressure having a chilling effect on legitimate political discourse across Turkish society regarding the sources of and solutions to the ongoing violence.” The prosecutor’s office is still investigating every person who signed the petition and some face disciplinary hearings and the potential for at least seven years in prison. As Erdogan’s chief advisor, Kalin is inextricably linked to the decision that prompted this action.

The United States currently supports the Turkish Kurds, while the Turkish government attacks them with airstrikes. The United States advocates for the Turkish Kurdish fighters to focus on protecting Kurdish areas in Syria from the civil war, while also successfully fighting the Islamic State group. President Erdogan has called on the United States to choose to side with the Turkish Kurds or with the government. Regardless of which side should be supported, the government should not penalize its citizens for signing a petition and speaking against government actions. Such restrictions on free speech do not align with Georgetown’s values and the university must not hold someone involved with an establishment that imposes them in an esteemed position.

Georgetown’s resources should be used to foster its moral values globally. Kalin’s direct connection with and endorsement of attacks on innocent peoples and academics are not consistent with these values and must be condemned by the university.


  1. This editorial is obviously well-meaning, seeking to defend the principles of unrestricted expression and journalistic freedom specifically pertaining to a university setting…

    That being said, please please please Hoya Editorial Board don’t try to weigh in on the complex geopolitics of the Middle East (you don’t even mention the PKK!). You’re just out of your element, I’m afraid to say.

  2. This editorial rightly questions the connection between the university and a scholar acting as spokesman for an overtly authoritarian political leader. The editorial could have added thousands of people including teenagers being prosecuted because they accusedly insulted the Excellencies. It doesn’t also mention for example how opposition media is taken over and turned to a mouthpiece for the government overnight through partisan “trustees” appointed by “independent” courts with no evidence at all that justifies such action. PKK question could become a confusing issue some time but there are plenty of actions by Erdogan that should embarrass anyone with a basic understanding of freedom and democracy. Kalin’s case is a mystery: it should be resolved not overlooked.

  3. This is guilt by association, a mere smear against Kalin. The editorial claims, “As Erdogan’s chief advisor, Kalin is inextricably linked to the decision that prompted this action.” What is the evidence for this claim? How do you know he has not been against Erdogan’s decisions? Why has not Kalin been asked for his response?

    I’m afraid to say, this smells like a smear campaign against Kalin.

    • guilt by partnership says:

      Guilt by association? If Dr, Kalin believes in academic freedom and freedom of speech in university, he should have said something in defense of academic freedom. Your boss does something huge that goes against your beliefs and you stay continue working for him and advising him without doing anything about the injustice committed by your boss? As far as we know, Dr. Kalin did not side with academics repressed by an increasingly authoritarian leader.

      This is not a smear campaign against Kalin; it is an invitation for him to stay true to the ideals that produced places like Georgetown.

  4. well written. Repression of academics, limiting free speech and human rights abuses are serious issues and need to be raised. Thank you Hoya.

  5. I’m not sure about that. They are strongly defending universal values of free expression, press, and speech.

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