A Stockholm University professor barred a Turkish student from attending an internship programme, claiming he cannot host her since Türkiye has been blocking Sweden’s entry into NATO.
Fatma Zehra S., a third-year undergraduate studying in the Department of Psychology at Ibn Haldun University in Istanbul, was accepted by an Erasmus+ fund for a summer 2023 internship at a university of her choosing.
One of the internships she applied for was at Stockholm University in Sweden. In an email she sent on November 23, 2022, Fatma outlined her interest in being considered for a research project led by professor Carlbring.
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!”
“After getting this answer, I was simply shocked,” Fatma tells TRT World. “It took me a long time to process it.”
Finland and Sweden formally applied to join NATO in May, abandoning decades of military non-alignment, a decision spurred by Russia’s war against Ukraine.
Fatma thought her experience could just be the “tip of the iceberg” and was serious enough to register a formal complaint. “If he did this to me, he would do this to other students with different racial backgrounds who apply to the university,” she says.
She proceeded to file a discrimination complaint report with the university on December 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,” she wrote in her complaint.
She received a response from the deputy head of the psychology department, Torun Lindholm Ojmyr, on December 6 apologising for the incident. Ojmyr claimed Professor Carlbring admitted that his behaviour was inappropriate and wrong, and that “several active measures are planned at the department going forward,” including “training on equal terms and the Swedish Discrimination Act”.
However, Fatma feels those statements don’t go far enough. “What I wanted them to do is to take active measures about his behaviour,” she said. Discrimination training is fine, but how can it be measured, she wondered, questioning whether it will be sufficient so that such incidents do not occur again in the future.