A university professor in Sweden rejected a request by a Turkish student to receive training at the university, claiming that her country, Turkey, is “obstructing Sweden’s accession” to NATO, a pretext the student described as shocking.
Fatima Al-Zahraa, a third-year Turkish student in the Department of Psychology at Ibn Khaldun University in Istanbul, received a grant for an internship program at a university in Europe in the summer of 2023, within the Erasmus program of the European Union for educational exchange.
The TRT World stated that Al-Zahraa sent, on November 23, 2022, an email to Professor Per Carlbring at Stockholm University, expressing her desire to participate in the research project headed by Carlbring.
The Swedish professor rejected Al-Zahraa’s request, but the student’s shock was more severe when she learned that the reason for the refusal, according to Carlbring, was Turkey’s obstruction of Sweden’s accession to NATO.
In his response, Carlbring said, “Dear Fatima, I would love to host you. However, since Turkey doesn’t allow Sweden to join NATO, I have to decline. Sorry.”
Fatima considered that her refusal to join the scientific research at Carlbring may be “the tip of the iceberg” and that this professor may have sent the same emails to other Turkish students who applied for training under his supervision.
On June 28, 2022, Turkey, Sweden and Finland signed a tripartite memorandum of understanding regarding the accession of the latter two countries to NATO, on the sidelines of the Alliance Leaders Summit, in Madrid.
The memorandum came after the two European countries pledged to respond to Ankara’s demands regarding cooperation in the fight against terrorism.
The Turkish student said, “I was shocked after I received this answer because I wanted to join this training program, for which I spent a lot of effort and time.”
She explained that she had not yet received an official apology from Carlbring for his behaviour. “I hope that he will send me an apology for his action, but he has not yet done so, and I was very disappointed by that, and I think this behaviour is childish, racist, and inappropriate.”
Al-Zahraa filed an official complaint with the university against Carlbring about his behaviour and stated in her complaint that this professor’s response was “based on political considerations, and he expressed a discriminatory stance that amounted to racism explicitly.” She confirmed that she was accepted to join a training program in the Psychology Department of the same university but with another professor.
Based on the complaint, the head of the Department of Psychology at Stockholm University sent a telegram of apology to the Turkish student. In contrast, the head of the department said that they took “the necessary measures as soon as we learned about this issue, and we discussed it according to our usual procedures.”