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Finnish universities circle wagons around Turkish academics

Universities say they may extend the contracts of Turkish researchers working at Finland while the situation in their homeland remains turbulent. Around 100 Turks are employed by Finnish universities.

Image: Anna Leppävuori / Yle

Finland's university rectors have agreed on joint measures to help protect Turkish researchers working here in the aftermath of the coup attempt in Turkey, reports the Oulu newspaper Kaleva on Wednesday.

The Turkish Ministry of Education has suspended or dismissed some 15,200 of its employees as part of the sweeping purge following last month's failed coup. Many face travel bans. More than 16,000 people have been arrested since the July 15 attempt, including many academics.

According to the Anatolia news agency, researchers and teachers working abroad have also been told to return to Turkey.

So far none of the Turkish researchers at the universities of Helsinki and Oulu have received orders to return, but for instance at least one working at the University of Tampere has.

"Taking a stand on societal issues is one of the duties of universities," says Jouko Niinimäki, rector of the University of Oulu and chair of Universities Finland (UNIFI), in Kaleva. UNIFI, which represents Finland's 15 universities, has condemned what it calls the unjust treatment of Turkish academics.

Contracts may be extended

Niinimäki estimates that there are about 100 Turkish citizens working at Finnish universities. The University of Turku has been in contact with the approximately 20 Turks working there, says rector Kalervo Väänänen.

"We have agreed that when their contracts run out, they will kept on until the situation is evaluated," Väänänen told Kaleva.

There at three Turkish researchers at the University of Tampere. It has written to the home university of the Turkish researcher who received an order to return, explaining why it is crucial for the academic to continue working in Tampere.

None of the five Turkish researchers at the University of Oulu has as of yet received such orders. Nor apparently have any of the 30 or so at the University of Helsinki.