Updated: Apr 26, 2019
On April 5, 2018, a Turkish court sentenced two prominent Turkish academics to fifteen months in prison on charges of “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization” for signing the 2016 peace petition.
Professor Zübeyde Füsun Üstel of Galatasaray University and Associate Professor Veli Polat of Istanbul University were among the 1,128 academics who signed the 2016 petition that called on the Turkish government to cease violence and comply with international law during military operations in the southeast of the country, a region that is predominantly Kurdish.
The petition, titled “We will not be a party to this crime!” was published in January 2016. Calling themselves “Academics for Peace,” the 1,128 signatories included Turkish scholars and prominent foreign academics such as American linguist Noam Chomsky. They said the Turkish government was condemning residents of towns in the southeast to hunger through the use of curfews. They called for a solution to the conflict, including talks with the Kurdish political movement.
The peace declaration frustrated Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government, leading to retribution against the academics. Some of the insults Erdoğan used included “so-called intellectuals,” “a flock called intellectuals,” “traitors,” and “rough copies of intellectuals.”
Hundreds of academics who signed the declaration were detained when police raided their homes and offices across Turkey after the declaration was announced on January 11, 2016. Scores were removed from their jobs.
Since the 2016 attempt coup, a total of 5,717 academics at 117 universities have been dismissed from their jobs due to government decrees issued under the ongoing state of emergency. According to a BBC Turkish