Updated: Mar 12, 2022
A group of more than 1,100 academics calling for an end of Turkish state violence against the country's Kurdish population won the prestigious Aachen Peace Award.
The Academics for Peace, a group of scholars from universities inside and outside of Turkey, came into President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's crosshairs in January after they issued an open letter calling for the state to end ongoing military operations in southeastern Turkey and resume peace negotiations with Kurdish militants.
The academics asked the state to "abandon its deliberate massacre and deportation of Kurdish and other peoples in the region" and end human rights violations contrary to Turkish and international law. "We will not be a party to this massacre by remaining silent and demand an immediate end to the violence perpetrated by the state," the letter says.
The academics were immediately attacked by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and Erdogan himself, who called on the judiciary to go after the signatories for "treason" and "terrorism" under the country's broad antiterror laws.
Several signatories have since faced trial, dozens have lost their university jobs, and many face threats in another extreme reaction against freedom of speech and thought in Erdogan's increasingly authoritarian Turkey.
The Aachen Peace Award committee cited the response of Erdogan, government agencies, and AKP-controlled school administrations as one reason for honoring Academics for Peace with the award.
"The call of Academics for Peace has a special status due to the clarity of the text and the massive backlash of the Turkish state, its organs and the defamatory public reaction," the German committee said. "Erdogan and his AKP government have created an enormous rift between Turkey and the Kurdish people."
The award came days after Erdogan lashed out at the EU for linking reform of the country's sweeping antiterrorism laws to visa free travel for Turkish citizens as part of a migrant deal with the bloc. The antiterror laws have sent journalists, academics, politicians, and activists to trial and prison.
Erdogan's attempt to clamp down on all criticism has even reached Germany, where a controversial investigation has been opened against a popular satirist who allegedly insulted the Turkish leader.
The Aachen Peace Award will be granted on September 1.