BİRARADA Academy: Peace Scholars Launch Exciting New Project in Turkey

On June 3, 2020, a group of Peace scholars in Turkey launched BİRARADA Academy in collaboration with international and local networks of human rights and academic freedom. (“Birarada” is the Turkish word meaning “together” and is also an acronym for “Bilim, Sanat, Eğitim, Araştırma, Dayanışma,” the Turkish words meaning “science, arts, education, research, and solidarity.”) The Academy offers scholars at risk a safe, constructive, and democratic virtual platform to communicate, build networks of solidarity, conduct research to the benefit of nature and society, organize cultural and art events, and support ongoing projects in collaboration with like-minded individuals and organizations.

Photo by Bianet

BİRARADA Academy rejects any form of discrimination based on race, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity or disability. It aspires to support and cherish the production and open, equal dissemination of critical, interdisciplinary knowledge, and to protect academic freedom under all circumstances in light of secular, egalitarian, libertarian values. Carving itself out a timely and valuable place in the already shrunken democratic public sphere of Turkey, BİRARADA proposes thinking of academia beyond institutionalized higher education.

The Academy has come into existence through the common effort of Peace scholars, most of whom were dismissed from their positions and have faced international travel restrictions since the public declaration in 2016 of the Peace letter in asking for a nonviolent solution to the Turkish state’s decades long cultural, social, and military oppression of its Kurdish citizens. Although Turkey’s Constitutional Court made a landmark ruling in July 2019 that overturned terrorism charges against Peace scholars, those scholars have not yet been reinstated to their positions and most of them still have not received their passports.

Founded in August 2018, BİRARADA Association has brought together several street academies and academic solidarity initiatives based in different cities and operating on a local level. With the remarkable support of the European Endowment for Democracy (EED) and Civil Rights Defender (CRD), the association has shaped and developed its administrative capacity. BİRARADA self-identifies as an independent organization concentrating on equal and free production and dissemination of knowledge, and the protection and enhancement of academic freedoms. On that axis, BİRARADA adopts a horizontal and transparent organizational structure and welcomes all academics at risk to this interdisciplinary, critical, exciting new platform.

Endangered Scholars Worldwide welcomes the inauguration of BİRARADA Academy as a positive development for scholars at risk in Turkey. Since 2016, we have been closely following the attacks on scientists and academics, whose rights to academic freedom and to free expression and association are expressly protected under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Turkey is a party. The ongoing tensions in Turkey have a profoundly destructive effect on academic freedom and represent a grave threat to higher education and scientific research. We at Endangered Scholars Worldwide urge Turkish officials to honor their constitutional obligations to protect the civil, political, and academic freedom of scholars and scientists.

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