Turkey’s Ministry of Interior has informed academics that they need prior approval before conducting research on Syrian refugees living in the country. In a directive dated April 10 and classified as “secret,” the Higher Education Council (YOK) told teaching staff across Turkish universities that, per the ministry’s decision, they would need permission from “relevant ministries” before conducting any type of survey or fieldwork among Turkey's 2 million Syrian refugees. The ostensible reason behind the decision is to protect the refugees' privacy.
The new regulation, however, promises to be both self-defeating and pointless. The Education and Science Workers’ Union — Egitim-Sen, one of Turkey’s largest teachers’ unions — has threatened to challenge the ministry’s decision in court because it is “a blow to academic activities and freedom.” Even if the Turkish judiciary, which is becoming an extension of the government's executive branch in recent years, upholds the policy, the ban is likely to fail for several reasons.