Turkish authorities have reportedly placed more than 1100 Turkish academics under investigation according to Scholars at Risk.
The academics were arrested after they signed a petition calling on the government to end its crackdowns targeting Kurdish rebels. After the petition was published on 11 January many of its its signatories have reportedly been arrested, charged with terrorism and related crimes, and suspended and/or forced to resign their positions.
The petition, signed by 1128 scholars from 89 Turkish universities, as well as more than 300 scholars from outside the country, demands an end to fighting between Turkish forces and members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). It accuses the government of the “deliberate massacre and deportation” of civilians, and calls on the government to allow independent observers into the region, end curfews, and renew peace efforts.
Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused the academics of spreading propaganda for a terrorist organisation.
The arrests have heightened concerns about freedom of expression under Erdogan’s presidency. The U.S. ambassador to Turkey, John Bass, said he was concerned about the “chilling effect” of the government’s actions on “legitimate political discourse”.
Many of the scholars who signed the petition have reportedly faced criminal, as well as professional retaliation.
Latife Akyüz, an associate professor of sociology at Düzce University, was reportedly terminated from her job and charged with “terrorist propaganda” to “inciting people to hatred, violence and breaking the law” and “insulting Turkish institutions and the Turkish Republic.”
Professor Bülent Tanju of Abdullah Gül University was forced to resign his position and is reportedly being investigated for “insulting Turkishness”.
Scholars at Risk says prosecuting, arresting or detaining scholars in response to their non-violent exercise of their rights to academic freedom is a breach of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
“Where they are a part of a widespread pattern, such incidents have a profoundly chilling effect on academic freedom, undermine democratic society generally, and may represent a grave threat to higher education on a national scale.”
Thanks to Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at Flickr for the photo