Turkish Government Threatens Academic Freedom

Updated: May 1, 2019

The Turkish government has taken drastic steps toward restricting academic freedoms, arresting 27 Turkish academics and launching criminal investigations into more than 1,200 individuals across 90 Turkish universities. Fortunately, all arrested scholars have since been released from detainment; however, if convicted, they could face up 15 years imprisonment on accounts of "propaganda against the government " and "insulting the Turkish government."

The tensions began in December 2015, when an open letter, signed by academics across the world including Noam Chomsky and David Graeber, was sent to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Chomsky has long been critical toward the Turkish government's treatment of Kurdish minorities and other facets of the Erdogan's government. He has raised concerns regarding a witch-hunt against academics critical of the AKP government.

The petition was initially released on January 11 with over 1,400 academics' and researchers' signatures. The Turkish Council of Higher Education (YÖK) immediately responded that it would take legal action against the Turkish signatories.

Read the petition text here.

the website for the original petition is no longer accessible online, the document has spawned petitions of solidarity from Turkish journalists, filmmakers, lawyers, publishers, and foreign academics

A petition on Change.org featuring a copy of the original has amassed more than 4,000 signatures, and a UK version of the Academics for Peace initiative has collected more than 800 signatures from professors and researchers across British Universities.

Sign the petition here.

The US embassy has also issued a statement indicating concerns over the arrests of the academics in Turkey, though it simultaneously denounced and rejected the petition itself.