Turkish Scholar Denied Right to Board U.S.-Bound Flight

May 16, 2014

The Middle East Studies Association’s Committee on Academic Freedom is protesting the refusal of authorities to allow a Turkish scholar of Kurdish history, İsmail Beşikçi, and his traveling companion to board a U.S.-bound flight from Istanbul reportedly at the behest of American government authorities.

According to MESA’s account, Beşikçi was invited to speak on April 22 at American University in Washington, D.C, but he and his companion, the director of a nonprofit cultural foundation, were turned away at the airport despite possessing valid visas to travel to the U.S. Airport personnel reportedly told Beşikçi that the refusal to let him board the flight originated with U.S. government authorities, an allegation that, in a media report, a spokeswoman  for the U.S. Department of State neither confirmed nor denied, citing a provision of immigration law prohibiting the government from commenting on individual cases. 

In a letter to the U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security, Jeh Charles Johnson, MESA’s Committee on Academic Freedom asked that the government investigate the incident and make public whether or not the refusal to allow Beşikçi to travel resulted from a request by the U.S. government.

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