[This post is authored by Alexandre Borovik. An extended version of this post, with further links and background information, can be found on Alexandre's blog.]

I had never in my life seen an arrested blackboard encircled by a police tape, still with some group theory problems on it.

But this had actually happened when the Turkish authorities closed
down the Mathematical Summer School
run by Ali Nesin for Turkish undergraduate students; Ali Nesin may face prosecution for an Orwellian offence of “education without permission“. Please sign the online petition in his support.

The bizarre nature of the incident inevitably requires some explanation.
The School is a continuation of Mathematical Summer Camps run by Ali
Nesin for many years. It provides high quality intensive courses in
topics more advanced than the usual undergraduate fare. I visited the
School and can attest to its highest quality – see my posts “Gold Sand in
a Stream
” and “Photos from Mathematical Village“.

However, local authorities were unhappy with Ali’s activities and
accused him of a number of alleged violations. But it appears that none
of the regulations allegedly breached provides a formal cause for
closing the school. This perhaps explains why the authorities decided to
invoke the charge of “education without permission”. It should be noted
at this point that

  1. all students in the School are over 18;
  2. the School does not award any degrees, diplomas, etc., and that its sole purpose is pure enjoyment of mathematics;
  3. the School had financial support from TUBITAK (the Turkish equivalent of the NSF or EPSRC) and from some leading Turkish Universities;
  4. Professor Ali Nesin is Chairman of the Department of Mathematics in Istanbul Bilgi University, one of the best Universities in Turkey.

Gendarmes put the tape around the blackboard on 31 July 2007. On 3
August 2007, a group of mathematicians sent a letter to the Prime Minister of Turkey asking him to stop the shameful prosecution; at the present moment, the Prime Minister’s office and the Governor of Ismir are involved in the dispute. However, this week Ali Nesin was summoned to the prosecutor’s office, where a state prosecutor accused him of ” founding an institution of education without permission” and of “educating without permission”. The situation is very fluid, and continuing support from the international mathematical community is of crucial importance.

Please support the noble cause of mathematics and sign the petition.