Violations of academic freedom and freedom of speech in Turkey have reached a dire situation. The intimidations from Turkish government and its affiliates toward academics have escalated to legal action where peace signatory academics face 7.5 years’ imprisonment if convicted for “propagandizing for a terrorist organization.”
In January 2016, 1128 academics signed the Peace Petition, titled ‘We Will Not Be A Party To This Crime’ in order to draw the public’s attention to the brutal acts of violence perpetrated by the state in the Kurdish regions of Turkey. Immediately after the release of the petition, many signatories were prosecuted, dismissed from their posts, and their citizenship rights were seized. A large number of academics including Nobel Prize laureates and members of major science academies around the world initiated a support campaign nationally and internationally. People from different professions, such as journalists, artists, screen actors and actresses, and writers joined their voice with persecuted academics. More people signed the petition, yet the suppression of the signatory academics got fiercer; hundreds of more academics were dismissed with statutory decrees, their passports were confiscated, they were banned from public sector employment, and criminal investigations were launched. Many of those academics had to leave the country and are now facing extreme difficulties in re-settling their lives and professions. One of the signatory academics –Mehmet Fırat Traş– could not stand this injustice and committed suicide. The declaration of a state of emergency in July 2016 after a military coup attempt further blurred the distinction between criminal investigations and political punishment and opened an arduous and painful avenue for not only the academics but also for journalists, writers, teachers, artists, and all walks of life who demand freedom in Turkey.
The signatory academics abroad have recently initiated a targeted boycott towards the Turkish higher education system, and its complicit universities. The aim of the academic boycott is to ensure that all dismissals are revoked and the persecution of academics, exacerbated under the state of emergency regime, is ended. To this boycott, and continuous struggle of Academics for Peace, the government recently responded with a harsher strategy: signatory academics are sued on an individual basis based on the accusation of terror propaganda according to the Turkish Penal Code, Article 7/2. The public prosecutor proposes imprisonment extending to 7.5 years. The number of academics with indictments is increasing day by day, and the first trials start on December 5, 2017.
Since the petition, one of the most important acts of support the academics who demanded peace has been the solidarity from colleagues who are not content with Turkey’s oppressive regime and its fatal actions on freedom of speech. In this new turn, we are well aware that we will need a stronger voice of resistance and call for justice! This solidarity can be through standing by us in the courts starting from December 5, 2017, sending monitoring teams, observers, and news-makers; spreading the word and raising the awareness for what is happening now in Turkey regarding the academics.
In order to stand in solidarity with the persecuted academics, we call on you to:
- Sign the petition https://academicboycottofturkey.wordpress.com/petition/ to support the targeted boycott on complicit universities in Turkey,
- Inform your professional organizations and university senators to take action against complicit institutions, such as The Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TUBITAK).
- Contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to attend the trials as an observer, or write to a human rights organization to send a delegate
- Support dismissed scholars financially by donating to the education union that supports them https://www.youcaring.com/academicsforpeaceinturkey-763983
- Share and spread this call for solidarity; comment on it in your blogs or write a news article. For more info on the latest attacks on academics in Turkey, please visit https://barisicinakademisyenler.net/English or http://mesana.org/pdf/Turkey20171017.pdf