The state of human rights in Turkey continues to deteriorate, as the Turkish government continues to drift away from democracy and the rule of law. Since the aborted military coup on July 15, 2016, which resulted in a two-year long nationwide state of emergency rule, academic freedom and the autonomy of universities remain very much at risk in Turkey. Following the arrest of hundreds of academics on terrorism charges and the civil death of thousands of others who lost their jobs, passports, and livelihoods, the Turkish government has been restructuring higher education in a unilateral, anti-democratic manner through top-down appointments and presidential executive decrees It is vital, then, to show our solidarity with academics in Turkey.
The tension between the country’s prestigious Bogazici University community and the government also continues to escalate since the rectoral appointment of Professor Naci Inci by a presidential executive decree as the new rector, despite the dissenting vote of 95 percent of the faculty. Throughout the protests in support of the Bogazici community’s struggle for academic freedom and institutional autonomy, the police used excessive force against peaceful protestors. As of June 2022, disciplinary sanctions and trials against tens of students are still in progress, while the new administration is unilaterally terminating the contracts of faculty, who raised their voice against the unsolicited changes enforced upon them by the Inci administration. As of September 2022, 16 faculty members were dismissed from the university without a fair evaluation or an explanation.
On April 25, 2022, toward the ninth anniversary of the Gezi Park protests in Turkey, the final hearing of the Gezi trial took place. The final verdict has given the prominent Turkish philanthropist Osman Kavala an aggravated life sentence without the possibility of parole, while seven others were sentenced to 18 years in prison for “attempting to overthrow the government.” All defendants were accused of orchestrating the 2013 Gezi protests and the 2016 coup attempt, both of which were considered by the ruling party AKP as part of an international plot to overthrow the government. Kavala had first been accused of financing the Gezi Park protests. He was acquitted on that charge — but stayed in prison on accusations of espionage in the same case. The espionage charges served to circumvent a 2019 ruling by the European Court of Human Justice (ECHR), demanding Kavala’s immediate release.
Endangered Scholars Worldwide remains concerned with the condition of academics and the future of higher education in Turkey. For the past six years, ESW has been monitoring the struggle of academics in Turkey case by case, making inquiries on a daily basis. The ongoing tensions in Turkey have a profoundly unsettling effect on academic freedom and pose a grave threat to higher education on a national scale. We at ESW look forward to sharing the news of full acquittal and reinstatement of those who were dismissed from their positions and/or imprisoned due to peaceful exercise of their freedom of expression and 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 party.
(Last updated October 3, 2022)
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President Recep Tayyip Erdogan
The Office of the President
Cumhurbaşkanlığı Blv., Cumhurbaşkanlığı Külliyesi
06560 Beştepe, Ankara
Fax: +90 312 525 58 31
Minister of Justice
06659 Kızılay, Ankara
Fax: +90 312 419 3370