Turkey (Academic Freedom)

Oral Answers to Questions — Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 9 March 1983.

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Photo of Barry Sheerman Barry Sheerman , Huddersfield East 12:00, 9 March 1983

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make representations to the Turkish Government about the curtailment of academic freedom in that country.

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Oxon Mid

We would not condone the restriction of academic freedom in any country, but we have no plans to make representations about academic freedom in Turkey. The administration of Turkish universities must be a matter for the Turkish authorities.

Photo of Barry Sheerman Barry Sheerman , Huddersfield East

Does the Minister agree that it is an appropriate day to talk about academic freedom, with today's lobby by the higher education world? Academic freedom, wherever it is under threat, is of serious concern to democratic countries such as this. What is going on in Turkey is surely of interest to the Government and this country, when a NATO ally is purging all those who do not agree with it from the university world and putting them in goal. Are not the human rights of an ally alongside whom we would be willing to go to war even more important than the human rights of a potential enemy?

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Oxon Mid

We have drawn to the attention of the Turkish Government from time to time our concern about violations of fundamental human rights.

Photo of Mr Patrick Wall Mr Patrick Wall , Haltemprice

Are not the Labour party's continued attacks on NATO allies to be deplored? Is it not a fact that the Turkish Government have restored law and order in that country and are now moving rapidly towards parliamntary and democratic government?

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Oxon Mid

My right hon. Friend is right. The new Turkish constitution has been approved by an overwhelming majority. Elections are due in October. It is good progress.

Photo of Mr Roland Moyle Mr Roland Moyle , Lewisham East

While we all appreciate the right hon. Gentleman's noble Friend the Minister of State's going to Turkey and falling asleep in the middle of a lecture on Anglo-Turkish diplomatic relations, is not something more active required of the Government in the light of what the Turkish Government are doing? Turkey is a member of NATO—in the same alliance as we are—and therefore should not Turkey be defending academic, trade union and press freedom? Should we not be urging it to do so as the price of remaining part of NATO, which makes it Turkey's responsibility to defend these freedoms?

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Oxon Mid

It must be for the Turks to decide how their universities should be run.

Several Hon. Members:

Mr. Shcharansky?

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Oxon Mid

Mr. Shcharansky has been in prison for many years. These people are not in prison.

Mr. Heifer:

Yes they are.

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Oxon Mid

The question on the Order Paper relates to the dismissal of a number of academics. We make the Turkish authorities aware of our concern for fundamental human rights and the visit of my noble Friend, to which the right hon. Member for Lewisham, East (Mr. Moyle) referred so slightingly, was an opportunity, which he took, to make that point.