Adrienne Wooster (AW): As someone who holds a Ph.D. in Philosophy, what has been your most prominent area of research within the field?
Saladdin Ahmed (SA): My research interests are, in general, social and political philosophy, critical theory, and philosophy of space. I have also done work on philosophy of race, minority rights, and social movements.
AW: From 2014 to June of 2015 you were a professor in the Philosophy Department at Mardin Artuklu University, however, you are no longer allowed to work there. Why did this occur? Do you believe that your research prompted your removal from the university?
SA: I will never know for certain whether my research had any role in their decision [to remove me], but I know their decision had to do with the political climate in Turkey and the rise in totalitarian policies in the country in general. I was targeted along with twelve other colleagues at the University and that was the beginning of a much larger purge in the country. Later, many of our other colleagues were also targeted because of what was perceived by the authorities as our [oppositional] political stance. I can only base my speculations on what we heard and what was published by the new rector of the University who was backed by Erdogan. The new rector issued the decision to fire us. He tweeted, in Turkish, numerous times, for example, stating on June 30, 2014: “Throughout history whenever there has been a scientific or political onslaught against the Islamic world it has taken place through crusades, and that is exactly what is going on in Turkey.” This Tweet came in response to student and faculty protests against the termination of faculty positions at our university.
AW: What drew you to Whitman College and how do you see the situation in Turkey as influencing your current work, if at all?
SA: After I left Turkey in the summer of 2015, I applied for Scholars at Risk’s (SAR) assistance to find a placement. In 2017, SAR found an opportunity for me at Whitman and I was called in for an interview. Then, through SAR, I was later asked to teach a two-week course in April and that was when I met the people at Whitman. What draws me to Whitman is that as a liberal arts school it aspires to be a place for global citizens with all that this implies in terms of awareness and responsibility. I just found it to be a great place to teach, work, and get back to a sort of normalcy. This new beginning for me would not have been possible without SAR’s extraordinary help. I cannot emphasize enough how helpful the SAR staff, including Sarina Rosenthal, Rose Anderson, and Lauren Crain, have been throughout. At Whitman College, the SAR committee, headed by Professor Gaurav Majumdar, has done everything to make me feel welcome at Whitman.