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Leibniz Professor İştar Gözaydın inaugurated at Leipzig University

On Tuesday, 15 May, the Turkish Professor of Law and Politics İştar Gözaydın has held her inaugural lecture The Desire Was There as a Leibniz Professor at Leipzig University.

For the first time a Leibniz Professor was not able to be present in person for her inaugural lecture, but was forced to give it via video conference. “It is a sad premiere,” said the director of Leipzig University’s Leibniz Programme Monika Wohlrab-Sahr in her laudatory speech, “that an invited scholar, the Leibniz Professor, cannot be present to give her inaugural lecture. Not because she decided to remain absent, but because she is not allowed to leave the country.”

İştar Gözaydın has been accused of supporting terrorist activities; she has been in prison, has had a trial and has been acquitted. Then the prosecutor appealed against the judgement, with the very vague, non-substantiated accusation that she could in principle support terrorist activities in the future. Now, the case in pending and as long as it is pending, she cannot leave the country.

İştar Gözaydın is a scholar who – due to her personal engagement, but also due to her expertise and her research on politics and religion – is deeply affected by the changing of Turkey in an authoritarian direction. “Her works show us, that there is a lively debate among Turkish legal scholars and among the judiciary. Turkey is not a place, in which critical debates over these topics are absent. […] İştar is certainly not a person that can easily be silenced,” said Monika Wohlrab-Sahr. Having Professor Gözaydın’s inaugural lecture via skype is thus also “meant as a protest and a claim: that she should be here and at some point in time will be here and discuss with us.”

In her lecture The Desire Was There İştar Gözaydın gave a brief account of Turkey's path to authoritarianism especially in 2010's and its possible impact on international affairs. Much has already been achieved by Erdoğan, current president of Turkey, and yet on the other hand, apparently there is much that he fears. The passion remains to refashion the minds and bodies of the nation according to his own ideals just as the founding elite of the country had done back in their time, though certainly the contents totally differ. Erdoğan's way of dealing with things and the style he has imposed – polarisation, divisiveness, creation of new real or imaginary enemies at each significant juncture, the adoption of a personality cult to suppress a climate of negotiation – has been adopted to such an extent at all levels that, should he be toppled by an unforeseeable confluence of events, there is little ground to hope that his replacement will embody a more democratic and peaceful understanding of governance, policy or even of life.