“Exit-Visa” Requirement for Turkish Architects and Engineers

Turkish Union of Engineers’ and Architects’ Chambers (TMMOB) have been a driving force behind social movements in the last couple of years. Starting with the Gezi Park protests, TMMOB has been well known by almost everyone in Turkey as well as many people outside of Turkey. The AKP government has been uneasy about the union’s activities, mainly because it has been the main civil society actor in countering the unlawful attempts of the government (such as the third bridge, northern highway, third airport, Gezi Park, etc.)

Over the past two years, government has prepared several draft laws to prevent activities of TMMOB and limit civil society’s involvement in “development plans” of the country. The union which consists of technocrats of technical fields prepare and distribute reports on feasibility and sustainability of the plans, and criticize them openly. This being seen as a political stand by the government, has drawn attention at an even greater scale. The government must be so worried of the union’s international visits in professional circles that they have prepared a new regulation to limit union members’ free travel rights.

Official Paper has cited a new regulation on 24th December saying that members of TMMOB and other chambers will be required to apply for exit-visa to Ministry of Environment and Urbanisation, 15 days prior to their participation in an international event. Upon this request, the ministry will consult to other ministries and ask for opinions whether to allow citizens to travel abroad or not. If the application is not found sufficient or appropriate, the exit-visa will be denied.

The new regulation has received criticism from the head of TMMOB, Mehmet Soğancı. The union leader has said to Hurriyet’s Aysel Alp that a ministry holding an engineering diploma but trying to prevent engineers of his country to participate at an international conference on engineering should throw away that diploma. Moreover, Soğancı also stated that the TMMOB will take this regulation to court and get it cancelled as it is in violation of human rights and liberties.

Currently the Chamber of Civil Engineers -which is a sub branch of TMMOB- is carrying out the secretary general duties of International Civil Engineers Union. There are several such memberships and duties that fall under TMMOB’s scope which from now on, under the new regulation will be subjected to government allowance.

Previously the government had tried to change laws and abolish TMMOB, as well as attempting to cancel compulsory membership of engineers and architects to chambers. However, the attempts have created a security liability, in the sense that new constructions, machinery, elevators, escalators etc, were to become susceptible to “no-compulsory-controls” as the law stated that it could be optional.

On another note, all Turkish citizens are already subject to exit-visas from ministry of internal affairs, which comes as an automatic fee of 15TL ($7~) without applying beforehand, when leaving the country.

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