Pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputy and human rights activist Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu put forward parliamentary questions to Turkey’s Justice Ministry on March 18 over a Turkish coronavirus researcher who was removed from his post by a state of emergency decree in 2016.
“I want to be part of the research being conducted now,” said scientist Mustafa Ulaşlı.
Ulaşlı was a lecturer at the Medical Biology and Genetics Department of the southeastern University of Gaziantep when he was sacked with a state of emergency decree, a practice that Ankara used widely after the botched coup attempt of 2016 to rid public institutions of individuals related to the U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen, widely believed to have masterminded the botched coup.
Prior to returning to Turkey to resume his studies, Ulaşlı had already spent a decade conducting research on the coronavirus, both at Princeton University between 2033 and 2007 and at Groningen University in the Netherlands from 2007 to 2011.
Ulaşlı was offered a permanent position at Princeton and earned the right to apply for Dutch citizenship, but turned both down offers to return to his home country.
“I wanted to raise better, more qualified students in my country.”
‘You need to know your enemy’
Ulaşlı worked on the genetics of the virus, researching how it penetrates the cell, its behavior afterwards, the damage it causes to the cell structure and how it reproduces itself.
“If you consider the virus as your enemy, you have to understand its behavior in order to develop a strategy to defeat it.”
There is no data on how many other scientists have carried out research on the coronavirus.
“We have very valuable scientists, but no one has worked on the genetics of this virus as much as I have.”
Ulaşlı noted the genetics of the virus are important in developing a vaccine against it.
Since his from removal from his post in 2016, Ulaşlı is banned from taking part in any scientific study.
“I belong in the lab. The longer I’m kept away from science, the rustier I get, and I don’t want to get rusty.”
Ulaşlı urged Ankara to reinstate all public workers they sacked with emergency decrees whose innocence was proven.
‘Will you keep this qualified scientist at bay during this crisis?’
HDP deputy Gergerlioğlu presented a series of parliamentary questions to Justice Minister Abdülhamit Gül, starting with the question “Is it true that Mustafa Ulaşlı has a PhD on the coronavirus but cannot take part in the fight against the current outbreak because he was sacked with an emergency decree?”
Gergerlioğlu asked the Justice Ministry how many other scientists were kept out of the fight against coronavirus and asked what would be done to swiftly reinstate them.
“Will the Justice Ministry continue to keep so many qualified scientists unproductive during this time of crisis when the Health Ministry needs more personnel than ever?