Solidarity with Turkey’s threatened academics and other critical voices
- All Belgian Universities
With the latest Decree No. 686 of February 7th, signed under the State of Emergency, Turkey has stepped up its crackdown on academic freedom once more, dismissing 330 academics at 49 universities. 77 of these were employees of Ankara University, whose political sciences’ faculty is renowned for its critical positioning vis-à-vis the government.
115 out of the 330 dismissed were amongst the over one thousand academics who signed an “Academics for Peace Declaration”, which denounced the way Turkey had stepped up its operations against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in the Southeast of the country since the summer of 2015, turning the centers of several Kurdish cities into war zones, causing the death of hundreds of civilians and the displacement of over 350.000 people . These events threaten to undo many of the steps that had been taken towards a peaceful resolution of the conflict over the last two decades.
Since the failed coup attempt of July 15th, 2016 the Turkish government has purged the public sector dismissing more than 100,000 civil servants including teachers, judges and prosecutors and more than 7,000 academics. Following the coup 1,577 deans of universities were forced to resign, many to be replaced by government trustees, in an effort to curb the autonomy of academic institutions. Apart from academics and other civil servants, numerous journalists, NGO employees and activists, and politicians from Kurdish and Kemalist opposition parties are being prosecuted.
The government accuses those dismissed and prosecuted of ties to the movement led by US-based Islamic cleric Fetullah Gülen, whom the authorities accuse of having plotted the coup attempt of July 15th. Yet the ongoing purges have targeted a broad range of individuals, many of whom do not have any proven links to the Gülen movement, as alleged by government authorities. Moreover, as Human Rights Watch (HRW) notes in its World Report 2017, “the crackdown also extended to the pro-Kurdish opposition party, with two leaders and other MPs arrested and placed in pretrial detention, along with many of its elected mayors, denying millions of voters their elected representatives.” HRW has consequently criticized Turkey’s president and government for instrumentalizing the violent military coup attempt of July 2016 to crack down on human rights and dismantle basic democratic safeguards.
The current purges, the attacks on academic freedom and freedom of the press have to be recognized as systematically undermining the conditions of free speech and critique in Turkey. This is not a question of targeting a few bothersome individuals, but of systematically dismantling the very conditions for critique and critical reflection. Moreover, the ongoing purges have to be understood in the context of the crackdown on the country’s Kurdish opposition that preceded the July 15th coup attempt. The attacks on Kurdish democratically elected representatives risks excluding the Kurdish opposition from political decision-making processes and paves the way for a renewed escalation of violence in the country’s Southeast.
With this petition we want to express our profound indignation as to the current state of affairs in Turkey and underline our solidarity with co-academics and critical voices inside Turkey. The way Turkey has been silencing dissent is devastating for its democracy, undermines the human rights its citizens – without exceptions – are entitled to, and risks setting the country onto a path into violent conflict. As scholars with long-standing research experience in and on Turkey who are closely following the current developments, we call on our colleagues at the University of Ghent and other Belgian universities to share these concerns and sign on to the petition below.
In light of the Turkish government’s continuing purges of the public sector, which have led to the mass dismissal of academics, teachers, judges, and prosecutors; its systematic attempts at silencing oppositional media outlets and journalists; and the indiscriminate targeting of Turkey’s Kurdish democratically elected opposition forces, we as academics and concerned citizens:
- publicly stand in solidarity with our colleagues in Turkey, who have been dismissed or are facing dismissal.
- call on academic institutions in Belgium to step up institutional support for dismissed and threatened Turkish academics through visiting scholarships, emergency programs, and other available means.
- support the production and practice of critical dissent vis-à-vis Turkish government policies by actors both inside and outside the country.
- urge our national governments and the European Union to hold the Turkish government to account for its violations of human and civil rights, academic freedom, and the rule of law.
The Solidarity with Turkey’s threatened academics and other critical voices petition to All Belgian Universities was written by Marlies Casier and is in the category Human Rights at GoPetition.