Do not be Complicit to the Ongoing Repression in Turkey!

Justice and the Rule of Law, Peace Petition, Press Release, Shrinking Space for Civil Society, Turkey, Turkish academics

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Copenhagen, Ankara –  15 February 2016

EuroMed Rights and its members, the Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly (HYD) and the Human Rights Association (IHD), strongly condemn the ongoing persecution, judicial harassment and smear campaign against 2000 academics who signed the Peace Petition in Turkey.

Recently, on 9 February, six professors from Nişantaşı University were fired by a unilateral decision of the Board of Trustees. Among those who have been fired is Assistant Professor Nil Mutluer, who represents HYD (Helsinki Citizens Assembly) in EuroMed Rights, along with the Professors Melih Kırlıdoğ and Selim Eyüboğlu, and Assistant Professors Çetin Gürer, Dilşa Deniz and Muzaffer Kaya.

Similar situations are ongoing since 11 January 2016, when 1128 academics (today they are more than 2200) in Turkey and abroad published a statement led by Academics for Peace entitled “We will not be a Party to This Crime”. The statement expresses concern that the ongoing curfews, which have been imposed in several cities across South East Turkey, sometimes round-the-clock and for entire weeks, are exposing their inhabitants to severe human rights violations, and asks that these curfews should be immediately lifted and that proposals and conditions for a peace process be established.

However, soon after its publication, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan heavily criticised the academics. In a public speech made on 15 January 2016, he referred to them as the “fifth column” for terrorists and accused them of having committed “the same crime as those who carry out massacres”.

On 15 January, 19 academics were arrested and taken into custody by the police. Although they were released after two days, charges are pending on them for “making propaganda for a terrorist organization” and the “denigration of the Turkish nation” under provisions of the Turkish penal code and the anti-terror law. Many more could be targeted by the judicial proceedings, dozens are subject to administrative proceedings from the Council of Higher Education (YOK) and several professors from private universities have been forced to resign.

In addition, several academics have reportedly received threats via social media and by telephone. Nationalist and notorious convicted criminal Sedat Peker has publicly incited to murder and threatened the academics by saying “we will bathe in your blood”. Moreover, red crosses or violent posters appeared on the office doors of several teachers who had signed the statement, teachers of Gazi University and Hacettepe University based in Ankara, and Pamukkale University based in Denizli.

The purpose of university is to be a space for creation and debate of ideas, for freedom of research and expression. This tradition takes root in centuries of history and culture all over the world, and should be protected in Turkey.

This situation takes place against the backdrop of a wider repression which is occurring in the context of the government’s “anti-terrorism” operations  and policies in the south-eastern regions of the country.

Our organisations strongly condemn the harassment of academics and call on the international community, notably the EU, to take action and to urge the authorities in Turkey to drop all charges against the signatories of the Statement for Peace.

We recall that Turkey benefits from research program Horizon 2020 and other academic EU cooperation programs such as ERASMUS. The EU should use this leverage to request the active protection of adademics in Turkey against intimidation, harassment and judicial proceedings.

More generally, the EU should urge Turkish authorities to put an end to the persecution of human rights defenders, journalists, trade unionists and all voices who express dissenting opinions. Turkey has the obligation to guarantee freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and association in compliance with international conventions it has ratified.