Thursday, April 29, 2010

Norwegian professor denied entry into Turkey

OSLO (AP) 25.04.2010- The chairwoman of a Norwegian civic commission monitoring human rights in Turkey said Sunday she had been denied entry into the country for political reasons.Kariane Westrheim told The Associated Press she was detained at the airport in Istanbul on Saturday and put on a plane back to Scandinavia.
She said Turkish officials gave no clear answer as to why she couldn't enter the country, but accused her of "supporting separatists" and being "very critical toward Turkish politics." "They told me, you will never, never, never enter Turkey again," she said.

Westrheim, who was traveling to Turkey to attend a women's rights conference, is the chairwoman of the European Union Turkey Civic Commission, an organization that monitors Turkey's compliance with EU's accession criteria. She is also a professor at the University of Bergen and has published research about the PKK - the Kurdistan Workers' Party - and Turkey's conflict with the Kurds.

The PKK has fought for independence for Kurds for decades and is considered a terrorist organization by the U.S. and the EU.

Turkey began membership talks with the EU in 2005, but has made little progress since. France and Germany have expressed opposition to its bid while negotiations over some policy areas such as energy are frozen over Turkey's refusal to allow ships and planes from Cyprus to enter its ports and airspace.

The EU Turkey Civic Commission says it supports Turkish EU membership, provided that Turkey solves the "Kurdish problem" and becomes a genuine democracy, with "respect for and protection of minorities."

Turkish officials weren't immediately available for comment.

KHRP Condemns Turkey’s Ejection of EU Turkey Civic Commission Chair

On Saturday 24 April, Kariane Westrheim, Chair of the EU Turkey Civic Commission (EUTCC), was stopped by authorities at the airport in Istanbul before being officially deported and placed on a return flight to Scandinavia. Westrheim, an Associate Professor at the University of Bergen had been en route to speak at a conference on women’s rights in Diyarbakir, and to conduct fieldwork with support of University of Bergen about education in areas of war and political conflict. The treatment of Ms. Westrheim, who has published significant works on the Kurdish issue, appeared to be politically motivated. She asserted that the Turkish authorities had accused her of “supporting separatists” and being “very critical toward Turkish politics”, and had assured her that she would never be allowed to enter Turkey again.

KHRP Managing Director Rachel Bernu denounced the decision saying, ‘Unfortunately, Turkey still seems confused about what its commitment to free expression actually means. So, let us be clear. When Turkey does not allow foreigners who criticize its policies into the country, it is in violation. By arresting, detaining and imprisoning its own citizens who are critical, it is again in violation. If Turkey is truly committed to the principle of freedom of expression, it must find a way to ensure this commitment filters down to its security and judicial apparatus.’

The EU Turkey Civic Commission, of which KHRP is a founding member, was established following a conference in 2004 on ‘The EU, Turkey and the Kurds’. Other founding members are the Bar Human Rights Association of England and Wales, Medico International and The Thorolf Rafto Foundation.

Five further conferences have been held subsequently at the European Parliament in Brussels, the most recent of which convened in February 2010. The Commission is supportive of Turkish accession to the EU under compliance with the Copenhagen membership criteria. Accordingly, the work of the EUTCC regularly involves monitoring and disseminating information pertaining to Turkish compliance with the Copenhagen criteria.

The Turkish authorities are yet to issue comment on the matter.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION: Pranjali Acharya / Rachel Bernu - Kurdish Human Rights Project - 11 Guilford Street, London, WC1N 1DH -

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