Turkish academics sacked over porn dissertation project

Bilgi University Bilgi has a reputation as one of the most liberal universities in Turkey

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Three academics at one of Turkey's top universities have been sacked after a student made a pornographic film for his dissertation project.

Bilgi University in Istanbul has shut its film department, and police are looking into possible criminal charges.

A number of other academics have protested against the response.

The incident has drawn attention to the clash between traditional values and the sometimes experimental arts and lifestyles practised in Istanbul.

Fail

When film student Deniz Ozgun first broached his idea for a dissertation project with his professors, they were hesitant.

He wanted to make a pornographic film, he said, but also to reveal how synthetic the sexual scenes in it were.

They told him the project needed to make a stronger intellectual point. Evidently he did not succeed - his film was marked a fail.

None of this caused a stir. But after Mr Ozgun gave an interview to a news magazine, describing how he made the film on campus, his project caused an uproar.

Parents wanted to know what kinds of things went on at Bilgi, one of Turkey's most prestigious private universities.

And, say some academics there, the Board of Education put pressure on the university to act.

As well as the firing of the three academics - who are now being investigated by the police - the university's department of film has been shut down.

Mr Ozgun, and the former student who starred in his film, have gone into hiding.

A number of academics have protested against this draconian response.

Neither the university nor the government is making any comment.

Bilgi has a reputation as one of the most liberal universities in Turkey - it was among the first to ignore the ban on Muslim women wearing headscarves on campus. But this issue has clearly touched a nerve.

Boundaries tested

People from different walks of life in Turkey now hold strikingly divergent values.

In much of the country they still adhere to strict moral codes, in which alcohol is banned, clothing is conservative and sex never discussed openly.

Politicians in the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) largely subscribe to this view.

But in Istanbul many people have very liberal attitudes to sex, alcohol and the arts. Indeed you can find films, plays and art exhibitions every bit as provocative and experimental as in any other European city.

Last September, guests attending new exhibitions at three art galleries in central Istanbul were attacked by local residents enraged by the sight of them drinking alcohol on the street outside.

They might have been even more enraged had they seen the content of the exhibitions, which challenged a number of taboo topics.

A publisher who translated erotic European literature was also put on trial last year, but eventually acquitted.

Turkey is now the world's fifteenth biggest economy; its people are more prosperous and more exposed to outside influences than ever before.

Boundaries are constantly being tested. But when they are, sometimes there is a powerful reaction.

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