Turkish authorities arrested three scholars who held press conference on March 10 in connection with signing the petition “We will not be a party to this crime”.
The scholars include Esra Mungan, of Boğaziçi University; Kıvanç Ersoy, of Mimar Sinan University of Fine Arts; Muzaffer Kaya, formerly of Nişantaşı University. A fourth arrest warrant has also been issued for Meral Camcı, formerly of İstanbul Yeniyüzyıl University, who is reportedly out of the country. Professors Kaya and Camcı were both fired from their positions as a result of signing the petition. At the conference, the scholars expressed their support for scholars who are under investigation for having signed a petition calling on the Turkish government to end the crackdowns targeting Kurdish minorities in the southeastern part of Turkey.
The tensions begun in December 2015, when an open letter to Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, signed by academics across the world, including Noam Chomsky and David Graeber. Chomsky has been very critical toward the Turkish government’s treatment of Kurdish minority inside Turkey and other facets of the Erdogan's government. He has raised concerns regarding 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 will take the legal action against the Turkish academics signatories of the "Academics for Peace petition".
Read the petition text here
Following the publication of the petition on January 11, 2016, public authorities placed all of its 1128 Turkish signatories under investigation. Since that time, many of the scholars who signed the petition have reportedly faced criminal, as well as professional retaliation.
Academics for Peace, has issued a statement on March 16, 2016
Academics for Peace, March 16, 2016.
Since the announcement of the declaration “We will not be a party to this crime” by the Academics for Peace, more than 60 people have been killed in two bombings at the heart of the capital of Turkey, Ankara. Meanwhile, under the name of military operations against the PKK, the state forces have killed hundreds of civilians in the southern part of the country and many more have been injured and forced to leave their homes.
Still, the academics persist in their call for peace while being repressed in various ways.
On March 14, a warrant was issued for the arrest of four academics who made a press declaration (dated, March 10) about the various consequences of oppressive acts carried out by the government since January 11 against the Academics for Peace. The academics Esra Mungan, Kıvanç Ersoy, Muzaffer Kaya and Meral Camcı, having read the text in the name of Academics for Peace - İstanbul, stated that many of the signatories were and are being dismissed from their universities, threatened to death, targeted through media, and that a judicial process would be launched against all of them. They also announced that they stood behind their declaration entitled “We will not be a party to this crime.”
Three of the four academics, Esra Mungan, Kıvanç Ersoy and Muzaffer Kaya, were taken under custody on March 14. Meral Camcı is abroad, and thus she was not. These three academics have been indicted for “promoting terrorist organization, acting upon the instructions of the organization,” and taken to the court on March 15. Upon the demand of the persecutor, they were sent to the court with a claim for arrest, and eventually, the court decided for arrest.
Moreover, Chris Stephenson, an academic at İstanbul Bilgi University, present at the court house for solidarity with those three, was taken under custody for carrying a notice of People’s Democratic Party (HDP) calling for Newroz celebrations. He is kept under custody on March 15 and taken to the Kumkapi deportation center today (March 16); we are all concerned that he would be illegally deported.
As warfare has escalated in the southern part of Turkey and spread to the other regions, calls for peace have been increasingly suppressed by the state. The pressure on the Academics for Peace is a clear indicator of the expanding pressure on opposition, which often results in serious human rights violations against oppositional voices.
We would like to inform you about the current developments in Turkey, and raise an urgent call for solidarity with the Academics for Peace against the oppression of the state, and we want the grounds for peace to be re-established before more killings take place in the country.
President Erdogan wants to change definition of ‘terrorist’ to include journalists and politicians
Right before the arrest of the three academics on charges of terrorist propaganda Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has stated the academics will pay a price for their “treachery”.
“It is not only the person who pulls the trigger, but those who made that possible who should also be defined as terrorists, regardless of their title,” Erdoğan said on Monday, adding that they could be journalists, academics, MPs or human rights activists.
His comments came the day after a suicide bomb attack in the country’s capital of Ankara killed at least 34 people and wounded 125 others when a car bomb was detonated near a main square in the Kizilay neighbourhood.
President Erdogan has numerously threatened Turkish academics and also the future of Turkey’s highest court after it ruled that holding two journalists in pre-trial detention was a violation of their rights to freedom of expression. The journalists, Cumhuriyet newspaper editor Can Dundar and Ankara bureau chief Erdem Gul, were arrested on charges of revealing state secrets and attempting to overthrow the government. They reportedly face calls for multiple life sentences from prosecutors and will stand trial later in March.
Endangered Scholars Worldwide is deeply concerned over the reports from Turkey
Endangered Scholars Worldwide is deeply concerned about the detention of and professional retaliation taken against scholars in response to their exercise of the rights to academic freedom, free expression and free association, conduct that is expressly protected under international human rights instruments including 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 unsettling effect on academic freedom, and represent a grave threat to higher education on a national scale.