ISTANBUL (AA) – A Turkish university student whose internship application was rejected by a Swedish professor over the country’s pending NATO membership bid is still waiting for an official apology.
Fatma Zehra S., a third-year undergraduate studying psychology at Istanbul’s Ibn Haldun University, was accepted by the EU’s Erasmus+ program for a summer 2023 internship at a university of her choice.
One of the internships she applied for was at Sweden’s Stockholm University. On November 23, Fatma sent an email to Per Carlbring, who leads a clinical psychology research group at the university, asking to take part in a research project led by him.
Within a few hours, Carlbring replied in English: “I would love to host you. However, since Turkey does not allow Sweden to join NATO, I have to decline. Sorry!”
Last June, Türkiye, Sweden, and Finland signed a memorandum designed to pave the way for the two Nordic countries’ NATO bids. Türkiye has not rejected their bids, but says both countries have to live up to their pledges in the memorandum to take a firm stand against violent militant groups in Syria in order to gain membership, which it stresses they have not yet done.
About the incident, Fatma said: “The head of the department apologized to me and said he had spoken to the person (Carlbring). However, I asked what concrete steps would be taken. They didn’t answer. ‘We’re taking action, necessary actions have started,’ they said later.
“When I asked the university to provide me with evidence, document it, and give a formal apology from the person, I didn’t get a response. Still (there’s been) no apology.”
The Turkish student filed a discrimination complaint with the university on December 5.
On December 6, she got an answer from Torun Lindholm Ojmyr, deputy head of the psychology department, apologizing for what happened.
Noting that her internship application was later accepted by another professor at the same university, Fatma said: “I got a lot of support during this process. People lifted me up a lot. This made me happy. I saw that people’s stance against such injustices was very firm. I can say that made me very happy.”
Turkish university condemns incident
Ibn Haldun University called this incident unacceptable, stressing that universities are expected to show an inclusive attitude by focusing on education and research, leaving politics aside.
“Even though Stockholm University apologized to our student, there is still no sanction regarding academic Carlbring, who showed this ugly attitude. In addition, it is essential to take necessary measures so that other students who apply from Türkiye do not encounter similar attitudes,” the university added.
Sweden and Finland formally applied to join NATO in May, abandoning decades of military non-alignment, a decision spurred by Russia’s war on Ukraine.
But Türkiye voiced objections, accusing the two countries of supporting groups that are perceived as harmful to the country’s interests, including the Kurdish nationalist PKK and Fetullah Gulen’s movement.
Last June, Türkiye and the two Nordic countries signed a memorandum to address Ankara’s legitimate security concerns, paving the way for their eventual membership in the alliance.