Turkish student rejected by Swedish professor over NATO bid
The application of a Turkish student for an internship program at Stockholm University was rejected by a professor over Türkiye’s stance against Sweden’s NATO bid, a report said Saturday.
TRT World, the English-language news channel of public broadcaster TRT, was granted access to the email sent by Per Carlbring, who leads a clinical psychology research group at the university.
Fatma Zehra S., a third-year undergraduate psychology student at Istanbul’s Ibn Haldun University, was accepted by an Erasmus+ fund for the summer 2023 internship at a university she would choose.
One of the internships she applied for was at Stockholm University in Sweden. On Nov. 23, Fatma sent an email to Carlbring, asking for participation in a research project led by him.
A few hours later, Carlbring replied: “I would love to host you. However, since Turkey does not allow Sweden to join NATO, I have to decline. Sorry!”
Speaking to TRT World, Fatma said, “After getting this answer, I was shocked. It took me a long time to process it.”
“We receive many inquiries from students interested in visiting us as research interns. But, unfortunately, we cannot receive them all but expect that any request is responded to professionally,” Fredrik Jonsson, head of the psychology department at Stockholm University, told TRT World.
“In this case, as soon as we learned about this issue, we acted and handled it according to our routines,” he added.
Meanwhile, TRT World said Carlbring did not respond to its request for comment.
It could be the ‘tip of the iceberg’
Fatma registered a formal complaint, believing this incident could be the “tip of the iceberg.”
“If he did this to me, he would do this to other students with different racial backgrounds who apply to the university,” she said.
The Turkish student filed a discrimination complaint with the university on Dec. 5, describing the professor’s response as being “based on political considerations” and “discriminatory if not completely racist.”
“Mixing a simple citizen and student who wishes to pursue her studies in the best conditions possible with the political stance of the government of the country she’s from is an infamous way of thinking and judging one’s skills and character,” Fatma wrote in her complaint.
On Dec. 6, she got an answer from Torun Lindholm Ojmyr, the deputy head of the psychology department, apologizing for what happened.
Ojmyr said Carlbring admitted that his behavior was inappropriate and wrong, adding “several active measures are planned at the department going forward,” including “training on equal terms and the Swedish Discrimination Act.”
Fatma feels it is not enough. “What I wanted them to do is to take active measures about his behavior.”
‘Childish, racist behavior’
Fatma said she has not yet received a formal apology from the professor himself.
“At this point, I am hoping he would send me an apology, but he has not, and I am disappointed about it.
“I think this behavior is childish, racist, and inappropriate. I am mentally strong, but other students who have insecurities about applying to different programs will not be able to recover from such an answer,” she said.
Despite the incident, her application was accepted by another psychology professor at the same university, Fatma said, as she plans to go ahead with the internship this summer.
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-a NATO member for more than 70 years-voiced objections, accusing the two countries of tolerating and even supporting terror groups, including the PKK and the Gülenist Terrorist Group (FETÖ).
Last June, Türkiye and the two Nordic countries signed a memorandum at a NATO summit in Madrid to address Ankara’s legitimate security concerns, paving the way for their eventual membership in the alliance.