We are gravely concerned that academics in Turkey are facing a lynch campaign initiated by the Turkish President and embraced by all public institutions as well as the large majority of the Turkish media under close control by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its government. They signed a petition demanding an end to state violence in Kurdish provinces and “a road map that would lead to a lasting peace in Turkey”.
The Turkish judiciary has initiated public prosecution under Article 301 of the Penal Code and Article 7 of Anti-terror Law alleging “terrorist organization propaganda”. After an emergency meeting, the Higher Education Council (YÖK) decided to commence an investigation against the scholars who signed the petition. These actions represent yet another violation on the right to freedom of expression in Turkey and are consistent with broader efforts on the part of the Turkish state to punish the critics of state policies.
We note with alarm that the actions against the academics have been taken after President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan designated the signatories as ‘traitors’ in a public address. This is a clear indication that the administrative and legal actions against the signatories reflect the current government’s abuse of law for achievement of political ends. It is also a clear indication that both the Higher Education Council and the individual universities that commenced action against the signatories do not respect academic freedom. We are concerned that the scope for cooperation with Turkish universities will be diminished further as the credibility of the higher education system is undermined seriously after steady deterioration due to numerous attacks on academic freedom in the past.
Finally, we are also gravely concerned that President Erdoğan did not hesitate in describing the petition as an invitation for foreigners to intervene in Turkey. This mindset both reflects and exacerbates the securitization of the public sphere in Turkey, particularly after the Turkish government’s withdrawal from the peace negotiations with the Kurds. We note that the petition did not call for foreign intervention, but rather for independent observation – which is the hallmark of both human rights monitoring and academic research. Given that the petition calls for independent observers to monitor the Kurdish provinces where civilians, including children and elderly, have died and are still dying under a security crackdown, its description as invitation for foreign intervention is incompatible with democracy or academic freedom.
We the signatories are in solidarity with our colleagues in Turkey and call upon the Turkish government to stop the lynch campaign unleashed against them. We also call on all governments, the media and the wider public outside Turkey to raise their voices against the curtailment of freedoms and suppression of dissent in Turkey.
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