Academics in Turkey and abroad have condemned the Turkish campaign in the Kurdish provinces. The state’s reaction has been undemocratic and worrisome.
On January 13, Turkish President Erdoğan said, to a group of academics:
“Pick a side. You are either on the side of the Turkish government, or you’re on the side of the terrorists.” (Source)
A day before, the Turkish Supreme Education Board (YÖK) announced this group of academics would have to face legal action for signing a petition (Source). What is this about?
1,128 academics from 89 universities in Turkey, and over 355 academics and researchers from abroad have signed a text calling on state of Turkey to end state violence in the Kurdish provinces and prepare negotiation conditions. Among them are such noted academics as Tariq Ali, David Graeber, Cynthia Enloe, Alessandra Mezzadri, Slavoj Zizek, Noam Chomsky, Judith Butler, Immanuel Wallerstein, Franco Berardi, Etienne Balibar, and David Harvey.
The following is the text of the petition (Source), which has incited such a strong response from Turkish government (For international support, please send your signature, name of your university and your title to info [a] barisicinakademisyenler.net and barisicingazeteciler [a] gmail.com):
This deliberate and planned massacre is in serious violation of Turkey’s own laws and international treaties to which Turkey is a party. These actions are in serious violation of international law.
We demand the state to abandon its deliberate massacre and deportation of Kurdish and other peoples in the region. We also demand the state to lift the curfew, punish those who are responsible for human rights violations, and compensate those citizens who have experienced material and psychological damage. For this purpose we demand that independent national and international observers to be given access to the region and that they be allowed to monitor and report on the incidents.
We demand the government to prepare the conditions for negotiations and create a road map that would lead to a lasting peace which includes the demands of the Kurdish political movement. We demand inclusion of independent observers from broad sections of society in these negotiations. We also declare our willingness to volunteer as observers. We oppose suppression of any kind of the opposition.
We, as academics and researchers working on and/or in Turkey, declare that we will not be a party to this massacre by remaining silent and demand an immediate end to the violence perpetrated by the state. We will continue advocacy with political parties, the parliament, and international public opinion until our demands are met".
On 15 January, the Turkish police detained more than 20 signatories of the petition from the University of Kocaeli. (Source – English, Source – German)
While the number of signatures to the petition reached more than 2000, the Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office in İstanbul launched an investigation into all the signatories of the petition. The academics are apparently accused of "provoking the people towards hatred and enmity, disseminating terrorist propaganda in favor of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), humiliating the Turkish Republic, state and its institutions as well as Turkishness."
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Davutoğlu is quoted with the worrisome statement that the petition "cannot be considered in the context of freedom of thought." (Source)
Furthermore, we came across an interview Judith Butler gave to T24 on January 13, in which she fittingly states that "The labelling of critical discussion as treachery is an old and indefensible tactic of governments that want to broaden their power at the expense of democracy."
For further information on the issue: The Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TIHV) has released a fact sheet with some of the grueling facts on Turkey’s war in the Kurdish provinces. Amnesty International has an ongoing “Urgent action” on the rights violations in Turkey. A separate petition urging the Turkish government to abandon the path to an “escalation of violence, human rights abuse and ‘the state of exceptions’ becoming the norm especially in the southeast of Turkey” is ongoing on Change.org.