Turkey is considering expelling more than a dozen French scholars. Their work permits have expired and may be victims of the evil relations between Turkey and France at any time.
Most of these more than a dozen teachers and scholars work in top Turkish universities in Istanbul. Facing the French media who came to interview, they admitted that they were caught in a “private conflict” between Turkish President Erdoğan and French President Macron.
The French newspaper Le Monde commented that they have become “collateral damage” to the cold relationship between the two countries.
Since last year, Turkish President Erdoğan and French President Macron have often had some quarrels, and the quarrels are very wide-ranging.
From Turkey’s geopolitical ambitions in the eastern Mediterranean region, to the long-standing refugee problem, to the attitude of the two countries towards religious issues, Turkish-French relations have been devastated and fallen into decades of lows.
Sudden language request, or in retaliation for France
According to the French 24 news website on February 24, Galatasaray University in Istanbul is the center of the disturbance.
The university was built in 1992 and occupies a valuable land where the busy Bosphorus Strait can be seen.
At that time, French President Mitterrand signed a school building agreement with Turkish President Ozer, and the University of Galatasaray was regarded as a symbol of Turkish-French friendship.
According to the agreement of that year, in order to show the friendly and cooperative relations between the two countries, the students enrolled in the school will receive French education, and the professional courses offered are half of the time in Turkish and French.
However, today, it has become the focus of disputes between the two sides in the context of the evil relationship between the two countries.
The disturbance began in September last year, when the Turkish Higher Education Commission suddenly changed its rules, requiring French college teachers who need to work and stay in Turkey to pass the Turkish language test to reach the B2 level of the European Common Language Reference Standard (equivalent to intermediate and advanced), otherwise they will not be able to replace the new residence permit.
More than two months later, the Turkish side notified that only six of the dozens of French teachers at the University of Galatasaray met the language requirements, and the rest would not be able to obtain residence permits under the new regulations.
French teachers complain that the B2 level is relatively high, and unless there is a considerable Turkish foundation before, it is difficult to reach it in more than two months.
“The B2 level is quite high and not necessary for teaching and research because our courses at the University of Galatasaray are in French, as previously agreed.” The teachers said in a statement.
Without a new residence permit, these French teachers cannot return once they leave Turkey, and cannot open bank accounts, sign lease contracts, and buy public transport cards in Turkey.
AFP reported on February 24 that Turkey’s practice is to reciprocity for similar measures taken by the French government.
France has also previously made French proficiency requirements for teachers and imams (Islamic clerics) from specific countries, including Turkey.
Since last fall, Macron and Erdoğan have had fierce verbal conflicts around France’s religious policies.
Erdoğan attacked Macron with “psychiatric problems”, while Macron said that “the Turkish people deserve better leadership”.
According to the analysis of France 24 News Network, against this background, Turkey has gradually begun to strengthen its control over the University of Galatasaray.
French teachers can hardly get Turkish public sympathy.
Just recently, there was a large-scale protest between students and teachers at Channel University next door to Galatasaray University.
In early January, Erdogan forced the appointment of a president of Channel University, which aroused dissatisfaction among student groups.
When the police and other law enforcement personnel arrived at the scene, the protest quickly turned into a violent conflict, in which some law enforcement personnel were beaten and injured.
At the end of January, four protest students were arrested on charges of “inciting hatred” and “insulting religious values” by adding rainbow flag elements that symbolize inclusive minorities into religious posters, which triggered a larger wave of protests.
AFP reported that French teachers at the University of Galatasaray are currently seeking the support of local Turkish students and teachers to integrate their demands into the increasing street protests of students.
However, against the backdrop of French practices against religious extremism that triggered attacks by Turkish public opinion, the demands of these French teachers did not receive broad sympathy from local public opinion.
Yeni Akit, a conservative Turkish media on secularization, had previously published editorials attacking the Turkish-French co-organized University of Galatasaray.
“Across Turkey, there are 13 high schools and one university engaged in French education.
They teach the French language and culture to our young people.” The editorial said, “Macron’s agents came to our Anatolian land, recruited our children and trained them into admirers of France. It’s time to end this educational imperialism!”
On the contrary, public opinion sympathetic to these French teachers is getting weaker and weaker.
Another Turkish media, Habertürk, published a comment, saying that the Turks have reason to be angry with French politicians, but should not be angry with academic and educational exchanges.