Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Solidarity Campaign to Support Academics for Peace Launched

Research Institute on Turkey, Bostonbul, GIT - North America and concerned academics in the US and Canada  have launched a solidarity campaign today to support dismissed and persecuted academics. The funds will be fully allocated to financially support the Academics for Peace through close collaboration with Education and Science Workers’ Union, Egitim-Sen, and other associations which are actively assisting the purged Academics for Peace at the local and international level.

Here is a short information video that introduces the campaign and gives the background of the persecution. 

There is no small amount. All donations are fully tax deductible within legal limits. For more information please contact us at solidarity.afp.turkey@gmail.com.

In solidarity,

Research Institute on Turkey, Bostonbul, GIT - North America 
and concerned academics in the US and Canada 

Friday, December 2, 2016

BAK [Academics for Peace] Declaration, Intellectuals and Academic Freedom[1]

Barış Ünlü 
Originally published in Turkish in Ayrıntı Dergi
Translated by Simten Coşar

The declaration, titled “We Will Not Be A Party To This Crime,” which was constituted by the initiative of Academics for Peace, and signed by more than 2000 academics (from Turkey and abroad) attracted harsh response from the state circles, starting with the President of the Republic. I think that this is due to two reasons; one, a century old, the other, more contemporary. Here I would like to focus on these two reasons.

The century old, historical reason is related to what I call the Turkishness Contract, that is a constitutive contract, formed by written document and unwritten tacit agreements between the state and society. In fact, the first version of this contract had been built on Islam; thus, it was a Muslimness Contract. Between 1914 and 1922 native and immigrant Muslim population of Anatolia, composed of different peoples carried out a struggle against the foreign Christian states like Russia, Great Britain, France and Greece. The struggle was essentially Muslimness-based. The struggle against the foreign power was ultimately won; but in due course Anatolia was “cleansed off” the native Christians, who turned out to be threats in the eyes of the Muslims. The cleansing off Anatolia from the Christians took many forms, including population exchange, deportation, threat and massacre; it turned out be a genocide in the case of the Armenian population. Whether one names it genocide or not, in the final analysis hundreds of thousand Armenians were forced to exile; hundreds of thousands died and were killed; and thousands of Armenians—mainly women and children—were forced to convert to Islam and shared among the Muslim population. This process was accompanied by a grand wealth transfer, defined as primitive accumulation of capital by Karl Marx, and which worked so as to constitute the initial capital of the Muslim bourgeoisie.

Muslims continued the eight-year-long war by a contract, which took on overt and tacit forms on two issues. According to the first article of this Muslimness Contract, in order to have a secure and privileged life—both in real and potential terms—in Anatolia it was necessary to be a Muslim. According to the second article of the contract no one shall speak out the facts of what had been done to non-Muslim peoples; neither shall one pursue intellectual work on these facts. In order to benefit from the contract one did not have to directly engage in the torture and oppression of non-Muslims. It was sufficient to keep silent. I think that another critical feature of the Muslimness Contract was that it was not imposed by the Unionists from above.[2] For me contract received extensive support and engagement by the upper, middle and lower layers of the Muslim social pyramid and it was executed by the mutual agreement among these three layers and through their common interests. This widespread involvement in the contract was also fed by the common sentiments like fear, anger, jealousy and ressentment against the Christians, shared by various social segments.

However by 1923, this contract was narrowed and Turkified by a new government that had gained self-confidence. This meant a partial change in the first article of the Muslimness Contract. From then on it was not sufficient to be Muslim for ensuring a secure and privileged life in this country; one also had to be a Turk or Turkified. In other words, you were required to be both a Muslim and a Turk. The second article, that is the article concerning the ban on expressing the facts about the way the non-Muslims were treated was taken over from the Muslimness Contract without any alterations. Turkisness Contract was an invitation to the Muslim peoples of the Republic of Turkey. It involved the possibility of any Muslim who did not consider herself/himself as Turk to become a Turk. But this was not a democratic invitation; for, those who would accept the invitation were to be awarded; and those who would not accept it were to be punished. Eventually millions of Muslims were Turkified; for, Turkishness ultimately was a matter of performance. As long as you spoke Turkish, you acknowledged the saying, “How happy is the one who says ‘I’m a Turk’,” think and feel like a Turk, or at least you disclaimed any identity but the Turk in the public life you were recognized to be a Turk. However there were those who did not conform with the contract. Especially, a significant part of the Kurdish people who had been promised [certain rights] through the Muslimness Contract opposed the first article of the contract, that is they stood against Turkification with a feeling of being intrigued. By the Sheikh Said Rebellion (1925) and its suppression a third article was added to the Turkishness Contract: Expressing the treatment that the Kurds were subjected to and the fact that Kurds existed was banned. Likewise, intellectual activities on these issues were also banned.

Turkishness Contract was secured first and foremost by the laws and the state’s instruments of violence. Those who would not abide with the contract were to be punished. Punishment took many forms such as death, imprisonment, dismissal from work, rejection of employment, deportation and ostracism. The same pattern still continues. Those who conformed to the contract could or would have the potential to go up in the social hierarchy—in economy, politics, bureaucracy, academy, arts etc. These mechanisms of punishment and award were not restricted to the individual per se, they also involved her/his family. In other words, in your decision not to comply you had to consider your family, too.

However compliance with the contract was made possible not only by the law and through the use of violence. Individuals (from different social groups and with different professions) have also developed mostly unconscious strategies of indifference, ignorance and insensitivity on matters pertaining to the Armenian and Kurdish Issues. For, considering and accumulating knowledge [on Kurdish and Armenian issues] would bring in such dangerous moral sentiments as shame and complicity. Since this was meant to be the violation of the contract, among many other forms of punishment, even your family could have excluded you. But refraining from what one knows and thinks might eliminate self-respect. In order to preempt this from happening the most apt thing to do was remaining in full ignorance, full neglect, and thus, in full insensitivity.

This strategies are especially striking for the intellectuals or literati who are expected to speak and write the truth. They especially needed indifference and ignorance; because once you are knowledged it is your intellectual responsibility to write what you have learned. I think that such strategies as undermining the Kurdish issue, not taking it serious, considering it as a reflection of another issue are used in order to prevent this happening. In this context, saying that the Kurdish and Armenian issues are part of the imperialist game, that Kurds are feudal and Islamists, or that they are nationalist and tribalist might be a way to say that you will never pay attention to the facts of Armenian and Kurdish issues. This is because these so-called thoughts relieves one’s conscience and provide a strong sense of righteousness. Here I would rather use the term “so-called” since they are more means of escape than thoughts. Therefore the abstract universalism of such ideologies as Kemalism (enlightenment), Islamism (religious brotherhood, ummah) and Marxism (internationalism) have so far functioned as means for escape for many literati from the concrete universalism of Armenian and Kurdish issues. To the extent that they appeared to be universalist they have been noble ways of escape.

In other words, the Turkishness Contract was at the same time a Contract of Ignorance and Insensitivity. This contract that was guaranteed by the legal instruments of the state and by the unconscious mechanisms of individuals have created a dense silence about the Kurdish issue and the history of Kurdistan even in the academia. Until the mid-1960s there is no independent study about the topic. I think İsmail Beşikçi is especially important in this respect. We can say that Beşikçi was the first academic who disrupted the thick silence of the academia on the Kurdish Issue, thus, who did not comply with the Turkishness Contract, and who revealed the contract. That is why he has been punished so severely. He was dismissed from his post at the university; he was imprisoned for more than 17 years; he was ostracized or cut dead by his Turkish colleagues; more than 30 of his books were banned. But at the same time, Kurds loved him and treated him almost as a heavenly being. How can a Turk challenge the Turkish State and Turkish majority in such a manner... Behind the admiration with love lies the fact that Kurds very well know the price of such an objection. In other words, Beşikçi was punished and loved for the same reason: He told what is banned to be told in the face of the state and the majority and thus paid its price insistently – and by paying the price he showed that there was such a ban. We can call this act as the act of speaking the truth by taking the risk vis-a-vis the powerful as intellectualism. We can also read the Peace Declaration by the Academics for Peace (Barış İçin Akademisyenler, BAK) within this frame, thus as an objection to the Turkishness Contract. I think that this frame allows us to understand the historical and structural aspects of the severe reactions that the [signatory] academics were faced with.

Certainly, since the 1960s there have been many changes in this context. Starting with the 1970s, but especially with the 1980s onwards the Kurdish movement through its different aspects took away the Turks’ privileges of not seeing, not hearing and not attending to the Kurdish issue. These are privileges; for, in a country only the sovereign groups have the power not to see, hear or attend to [the facts]. Thus the Kurds eliminated the Turks’ privileges of not seeing, hearing and attending to [the facts] by making themselves visible and heard via various means. In other words, they came forth as a non-negligible power. This eventually lead to a crisis of Turkishness; because it was no more possible to maintain the ignorance that was among the most important ingredients of Turkishness Contract. The majority of the Turks responded to this crisis by becoming more nationalist, and even racist. But considerable number of Turks faced up to a real transformation and conceded to the collapse of Turkishness Contract on their part. They tried to form genuine empathy with the Armenians and Kurds. In the meantime they broke away with their Turkishness to a certain extent; they got into serious problems even with the ones closest to them. I think the increase in the number of such academics from 1 in the 1960s to 2000 and even more today is related to the transformation at the individual and social levels.

Certainly it is not only the individuals who face with crisis; State, too, is in crisis in the face of the Kurdish movement. Thus in the 1990s they had to recognize the “Kurdish Reality” and in the 2000s they had to initiate “Kurdish Opening.” These developments meant loosening of the Turkishness Contract to a certain extent, and opening a space for the discussion on the Kurdish Issue in mass media and universities. Hence academic studies on the Kurdish Issue started in the 1990s, increased in the 2000s; and many topics related to the Kurdish Issue were opened to discussion in the mass media in the second half of the 2000s. In the meantime the Justice and Development Party governments (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi, AKP) has opted to resolve this issue by turning Turkishness Contract into the older Muslimness Contract, that is, through a Muslimness-based agreement. But whatever the underlying reason the Process of Resolution could not be finalized and the war started again. The start of the war rigidified the Turkishness Contract once more. The State and the AKP government made it clear that they expected different performances of Turkishness from different Turks, living and working in various settings. And these performances followed one another immediately. While a poor Turk involved in the lynch of a Kurd in Muğla, an elite Turk, İsmet Berkan, reported from within an armored police vehicle in Sur. The fact that the Turks with different political positions unified around the Kurdish issue might be considered in relation to the reactivation of the contract in its most rigid form.

The BAK Declaration emerged in such a critical time. Thousands of academics spoke the truth at a moment when the Kurds thought and told that they were not visible, and heard in the West, that nobody cared about them, when speaking the truth was banned and dangerous. Here, I do not claim that the “truth” is exclusively factually right (personally I think it is; but it is not my intention here to discuss this). It can be objected by singling out its sentences, words or the concepts used; it can be claimed that these and the like are wrong or that they are employed in an incorrect manner. The term “truth,” here, means the “truth” of those whose voices are not heard, who are powerless, and who are not cared and attended to. When the truth, experienced by the powerless is expressed by some among the powerful against the powerful state and majority, expressing this “truth” is an intellectual act—as I noted in the case of Beşikçi. Engaging in intellectual function means engaging in moral act. Expressing the truth of the powerless against the powerful makes that “truth” heard and since doing so leads to risks for the life of the agent herself/himself the moral stance of the agent gains strength. And the “truth” expressed by those who are considered to take a moral stance gains more credibility. What is said is therefore taken seriously even by those who hate the agent(s).

I am not trying to romanticize the category of the intellectual, whom I described as the one who tells the truth which the powerful does not want to hear. Someone who considers herself/himself as an intellectual or someone who engages in an intellectual act can speak or write on subjects about which s/he does not have extensive knowledge; s/he can take a stance in relation to such subjects. In this respect, s/he can act “irresponsibly” over others’ lives; s/he might consider herself/himself over and above the classes and ethnicities, and thus someone who does not pursue self-interests. S/he might also try to give such an impression. In other words, since s/he cannot analyze her/his perspective she can mistaken when judging the others; as s/he detaches from the majority and the state s/he can try to make the minority love her/him; thus, s/he might neglect the minorities within the minorities, more powerless among the powerless. Intellectuals can be and are criticized on these grounds anywhere in the world. For example the two important intellectuals of twentieth century, Jean Paul-Sartre and Michel Foucault have been criticized due to the stance that they assumed in Algerian Independence War and in the Iranian Revolution, respectively.

Nevertheless, the type that we name as intellectual is taken seriously worldwide. I think that the main reason behind this is related to the fact that intellectuals take a moral position on the side of the powerless, and against the powerful. To put it the other way around: Intellectuals are taken seriously because there is the impression that they take a moral stance. And intellectuals are taken more seriously if this stance is against the state—as a sphere where different loci of power (military, political, economic, cultural) intensify and unite and when this state is grappling with racial, ethnic and colonial conflicts; for under such conditions moral stance is reinforced due to higher levels of risk. Here I use the term “to be taken seriously” in a neutral fashion. Those who are suppressed might turn this intellectual type into heros/heroines; or the state and majority might turn this type into a traitor. But ultimately, both parties take it seriously.

And the signatories to the BAK Declaration displayed an intellectual act—this is so, even when the signatories do not consider themselves as intellectuals on an individual basis, or that they do not aspire to be intellectuals. They performed an intellectual act by expressing the truth of the powerless in the face of the powerful. In order to solidify in the case of Turkey, at a time when the Turkishnes Contract is once more rigidified, when Turks are called to indifference and insensitivity, they told that the state committed massacres and pursued a deliberate exile policy in the region. The reaction of first the President of the Republic and the state have been excessively severe. Threats, insults, detentions, dismissals from work, harassment in various forms and finally the arrest of Kıvanç Ersoy, Muzaffer Kaya, Esra Mungan and Meral Camcı followed one another. State’s severe reaction had, in turn, affected the state of affairs in such a way that confirmed signatories’ claims. The most important academics and academic institutions worldwide immediately comprehended what has been going on and took sides with the academics who could raise their voice against such a state. In this respect, the local truth told by the signatories became a universal one.

I have so far touched on a historical reason behind the reaction of state against the BAK Declaration. An almost a century-long historical reason which contains but at the same time goes well beyond the AKP governments: Turkishness Contract. From now on I want to touch on a more contemporary reason. This is a reason, which can only explained directly by the state of affairs that define the AKP’s rule. I think that in addition to the historical reason, behind the severe reaction lies the loss of intellectual legitimacy of the AKP’s rule. Briefly, an intellectual who support the AKP’s rule looses her/his reputation almost automatically and is not taken seriously anymore. This is because the political power holders have lost legitimacy in all spheres and are identified with authoritarism, fascism, corruption, lies and illegality. The fact that the political party concerned still has the support of the 50% of the (voting) population in the country can be raised as an objection to this claim. The fact that the elections took place through illegitimate and illegal methods—perhaps except for the counting—put aside, the following counter-claim may be offered: legitimacy is a power that you can derive not from your supporters but from those who do not support you. In other words, those who do not support you should consider you at least minimally legal, honest and democratic. However today, the ruling party in Turkey is perceived as a mafiatic structure rather than a state structure in the eyes of millions of those who live in Turkey and even by a considerable part of the world.

Therefore an intellectual who continues to extend support to such a ruling body loses her/his prestige and reputation in the eyes of local and universal intellectual communities. And this in turn makes the related intellectual(s) dysfunctional for the very same ruling body. Their functionality could only be derived from effectiveness beyond the masses, supporting the ruling body. Since they do not have such effectivenesss the ruling body does not take them seriously anymore. It is for this reason that academics are tried to be fended off not by the academics or intellectuals but by the mafia boss Sedat Peker. I think that Sedat Peker’s (in)famous speech arises out of a need. A ruling body, which had lost all its intellectual legitimacy can do nothing but face the intellectuals with violence and threat.

In this context, the words of Hilal Berktay, who has intellectual claims, offer an interesting case for our subject matter: “... we shall stop heating the witch’s cauldron; ... [we shall ignore] the extremities and ultra-extremities that extends to Sedat Peker’s ‘we shall shed blood in streams’. On the contrary, we shall properly launch a struggle of ideas. We shall sort out those paragraphs sentence by sentence. We shall let each sentence speak one by one. And then would they be defending the text that they signed sentence by sentence” (“Aykırılık ve Demokrasi”, Serbestiyet, 14 January 2016). Here we can say that Berktay believes that he can falsify the BAK Declaration if he has given the opportunity. But I do not think that he is realistic in his belief. For in order to be able to falisfy those sentences Berktay needs to be an intellectual who is taken seriously in Turkey and worldwide. And due to the reasons that I noted above this is no more possible. In this respect, Berktay faces the following paradox: Even if all his sentences are “true” and all the sentences of the academics are “wrong” he still cannot falsify academics’ sayings. And thus Sedat Peker talks—or perhaps is forced to talk—in the way he does since Halil Berktay cannot falsify the sentences concerned.

The connection formed between Chomsky’s support to the academics on the one hand, and the left networks and disinformation on the other hand, by Berktay (“Akademikler Fazla Siyasi” (Academics Are Too Political), Haber Türk, 25 January 2016) ve Merve Kavakçı (“Akademik Ahlak ve Eksikliği” (Academic Morals and The Lack of It) Yeni Akit, 26 January 2016) is not realistic for similar reasons. If these writers had contacted Chomsky and even if none of the academics could have contacted him he would still support the academics. For, as a universal intellectual Chomsky is well aware of the meaning of intellectual and he knows that the support given to such a ruling body and to the intellectuals who support such a ruling body would risk even his status as an intellectual; and that it would risk the credibility of his word. This “intellectual despair” of Berktay, Kavakçı and similar literati eventually lead them to anti-intellectualism. They start to envisage a portrait of the intellectual who commits disinformation, who has control over networks, who is foreign to her/his peoples and land, and then criticize that type.

The loss of intellectual legitimacy—as I describe here—means a major and deep crisis for the AKP’s rule. And no matter how powerful the AKP is, it cannot overcome this crisis. In fact, the crisis is deepened as the AKP’s power increases. For, as the AKP’s power increases its monopolization of power intensifies, and the more the party commits corruption the reputation of its intellectual supporters decreases. In other words, the support extended by the intellectual means, in a sense, committing suicide. Intellectual loses her/his intellectual identity and ultimately becomes dysfunctional for the ruling body.

Thus the ruling body becomes more vulnerable in the face of those telling the truth and in those spaces where the truth is told. It loses all its tolerance toward the act of telling the truth. This is why it puts so much pressure on those spheres where the duty is to tell the truth. By the supression of those spheres like the judiciary and the media where telling the truth—although in different styles—is a professional and moral duty, the universities, expected to tell the truth as the third important sphere turn out to pose an ever-increasing threat to the ruling body. After the elimination of judicial and media independence university autonomy is targeted. For example, the fact that such institutions like METU, which abide not with local and national standards but with universal standards face with such major threats is related to their offering shelter for those academics who tell the truth. These universities are threatened even by military occupation.

In sum, we can argue that so long as the war countries, so long as the Turkishess Contract continues to rigidify and so long as the AKP’s rule persists the academia in Turkey will have to endure under attack from two sources—one older, the other comparatively new. In such a setting academic autonomy and freedom might be subjected to serious damage; they might even be totally eliminated. In case this elimination takes place the institutional guarantee of telling the truth will be lost; but the loss of this guarantee will not totally block telling the truth. On the contrary, as the pressure on and the cost of telling the truth increases the influence of the act of telling the truth might increase.

[1] This text was delivered to Hasan Ünal Nalbantoğlu Symposium, held at METU (Ankara, Turkey) between 21 March and 23 March 2016; and to the Panel on Freedom of Thought and Expression, organized by Eğitim-Sen (Union of Education and Science Labourers) at Hacettepe University (Ankara, Turkey) on 12 April 2016. 

[2] Here the author refers to the Union and Progress governments in the period between 1908-1918. The Union and Progress governments are known with their statist policy agendas in Ottoman-Turkish political history.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Human rights jailed in Turkey, literally!

Professor Şebnem Korur Fincancı, the President of the Human Rights Foundation and a member of the Turkish Medical Association's Committee on Human Rights, was arrested today in Turkey (source: Cumhuriyet and Turkish Medical Association).

 [Haber görseli]

Fincancı was one of the three people arrested in connection with a case involving the Turkish daily Özgür Gündem. Because of the pressures that Özgür Gündem journalists were under, a campaign was developed to share the responsibility of publishing the paper among intellectuals in Turkey. Volunteers were taking turns to serve as the paper's editor-in-chief in order to show solidarity with this newspaper that looks at the conflict between the Turkish state and the PKK from a different perspective than most news outlets in Turkey.

Today, three such volunteer editors-in-chief, Professor Şebnem Korur Fincancı (an expert in forensic medicine), Ahmet Nesin (a journalist), and Erol Önderoğlu (a journalist who is also the representative of Journalists without Borders in Turkey) were on trial for news reports and images that were published on May 18, May 30, and June 7, days on which Önderoğlu, Korur, and Nesin acted as volunteer editor-in-chief, respectively. The prosecutor claims that these reports and images are terrorist propaganda. The judge decided to arrest the defendants and continue the trial while they are held in jail.

Other than being the president of the Human Rights Foundation and a member of the Turkish Medical Association's Committee on Human Rights, Professor Fincancı was one of the key figures who contributed to the Istanbul Protocol -- Manual on Effective Investigation and Documentation of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which is the first set of international guidelines for documentation of torture and its consequences, that became an official United Nations document in 1999.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

The witch hunt for Academics for Peace continues: Two more faculty members fired

The witch hunt against the academics who signed the Petition for Peace, which demanded from the Turkish government to stop the violence perpetrated by the forces of the Turkish state in the Kurdish provinces of Turkey, continues. Two more signatories lost their jobs this week.

According to the Turkish daily Cumhuriyet, Assistant Professor Aslı Vatansever and Professor Serdar Değirmencioğlu were fired by Doğuş University in Istanbul. Vatansever stated that the university had opened three disciplinary investigations against her: one for signing the Petition for Peace, another for reading the press release of the Academics for Peace in Sur, and the third for posting a slogan from the German student movement of 1968 on her office door. Vatansever added that she does not regret her signature at all. She hopes that the Academics for Peace will provide the occasion to build a new academia in Turkey.

[Haber görseli]

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Feminist Theories and Peace Deemed Inappropriate in Thesis Proposal

Below is the English translation of an article published in Turkish on the news site Diken. The article illuminates the issues with academic freedom in Turkey.

Academic Freedom As Such: 
Thesis on ‘Peace’ Rejected; Thesis Supervisor Resigned

April 29, 2016

The thesis proposal, titled ‘The Role of Women in Peace Building: Women’s Experiences with Peace in Four Different Cities” was submitted to the Social Sciences Institute at Akdeniz University (Antalya, Turkey) under the supervision of Dr. Gülser Öztunalı Kayır, who was full time faculty in the Department of Public Administration.

Within the scope of the thesis the experiences of women’s associations and initiatives in İstanbul, Ankara, Diyarbakır and Van were to be elaborated [with a view to] the liberal, socialist and feminist peace theories.

Peace - an ambiguous word

But the Director of the Social Sciences Institute, Zekeriya Karadavut objected to the thesis proposal. He justified his objection on the grounds that it “contradicted” the notice that the Prime Ministry issued “On the Public Officials Related to those Organizations and Structures Which Pose a Threat National Security.” [1]

Karadavut considered some of the expressions in the thesis proposal that was submitted in March to be inconvenient and issued a written statement for its re-assessment within the scope of the Prime Ministry’s notice. The expressions, which were considered to be inappropriate by Karadavut are listed as follows: ‘The peace building process in the cities in Turkey,’ ‘Liberal, socialist and feminist peace theories,’ ‘Women in peace struggles,’ ‘The definition of peace by women living in İstanbul, Diyarbakır and Van.’

For Karadavut, who stated that these expressions could not be understood clearly, ‘peace’ was among such expressions: While “the word peace is defined as the situation after the end of war is stated by a treaty’ in the outline of the thesis, it appears as a randomly used term as if in slang language with no connection to official and scientific terminology - if this does not connote a different intention. Apart from that, the fact that some structures that are perceived to pursue illegal activities under the
guise of legality are shareholders to the thesis makes the thesis contradict with the [Prime Ministery’s] related notice.”

Consequently it was found appropriate to revise the thesis in line with the Prime Ministry’s notice of terrorism, concerning the public officials. Therewith the Head of the Unit, Dr. Erol Esen asked Kayır to see to it that the required revisions be made.

Professor’s dissent

Kayır argued that the university administrations are obligated to implement the decisions of the Council of Higher Education through a filtering system that prioritizes scientific freedom and autonomy. When her objection was not taken into consideration Kayır stated that illegal and non-scientific practices, and pressures against the faculty and students have increased in the last years
and resigned from her post as supervisor.

Under the organization of Mor Çatı Women’s Shelter Foundation [2] and with the participation of 35 women’s organizations from Bodrum to Antalya, İzmir and Çanakkale women’s movements issued a declaration of support with Kayır. In the declaration it was stated that one of the responsibilities of the universities is to offer solutions to societal problems and that “Peace building is our country’s primary problem and it is clear that analyzing the issue is a fundamental responsibility of the universities.”
[1] The notice was issued on February 17, 2016 in the Official Gazette.
http://www.milliyet.com.tr/basbakanlik-tan- teror-genelgesi/siyaset/detay/2195567/default.htm

[2] https://www.morcati.org.tr/en/

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

9 Turkish academics loose their tenure for signing a petition for peace

According to the Turkish daily Cumhuriyet, two public universities are firing nine academics who signed the Petition for Peace. The disciplinary proceedings against Özlem Şendeniz, a research assistant in the Faculty of Economic and Administrative Sciences at Iğdır University resulted in a decision to fire her.

Similarly, Assistant Professor Bülent Şık, Associate Professor Cumhur İzgi, Professor Erdal Girgil, Assistant Professor Hafize Öztürk Türkmen, Professor Nursel Şahin, Associate Professor Süleyman Ulutürk, Professor Taha Kahraman, and Assistant Professor Suzan Yazıcı --all eight at Akdeniz University in Antalya-- learned from the local supplement of the Turkish daily Hurriyet that the disciplinary proceedings against them resulted in a decision to take away their tenure (memuriyetten çıkarma).

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Detained Academics Released

Kıvanç Ersoy, Muzaffer Kaya, Meral Camcı and Esra Mungan

Detained academics were released by the court on Friday April 22, 2016. Imprisoned under the allegations of terrorism propaganda, three signatories were kept in prison for 38 days, and Meral Camcı later joined them when she returned to Turkey from abroad--knowing that she would be sent to prison. Upon her return, the prosecutor asked for her arrest on the grounds that there is a risk for her to "run away."

During the trial, the prosecutor first requested their continuous detention. He then changed his mind, and asked for the academics' release. After the break, he changed his mind again: while still asking for their release, he asked for the court to drop charges of terrorism and accept the new charges under article 301--the infamous law that criminalizes denigrating Turkishness and the state. 

The problematic handling of the case aside, according to lawyer Meriç Eyüboğlu in a previous case (Akçam vs. Turkey) the European Court of Human Rights has already ruled that 301 has no clear norm of applicability and therefore cannot be applied. It is currently unclear how the court will proceed because according to Turkish law, in order for someone to be charged under article 301, the prosecutor needs the permission of the Ministry of Justice. The next trial will be held in September 2016.

Threats Against Academics and Students:
"Execute the PKK Partisans" 

Photograph from Cumhuriyet.

Following the release of four detained academics on Friday, a group of vigilante placed a new threat against the signatory academics and students. In front of the Yunus Emre campus of Eskişehir Anadolu University, a male mannequin dressed in a skirt was hung with a banner that read: "hang the PKK supporter academics, students and others." 

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

GIT Turkiye Publishes Third Report on Violation of Rights in Turkish Academy
The report, third in a series, meticulously documents the individual cases of violation of rights and describes the administrative investigations, dismissals, auto-censorship that precludes discussion or research of certain topics, as well as the pressures on new groups and organizations that resist or question the political authority in Turkish academia from May 2013 to May 2015.

By drawing attention to the direct and indirect obstacles the political climate and the commercialization of higher education pose for free and open academic discussion, research, and organization, it delienates the insecurity and vulnerability of the academic staff.

The report demonstrates that the Turkish state's policies for rendering academia irrelevant and docile, which recently escalated to arrests of faculty members for signing a peace declaration and their unlawful detention in isolation for days, is part of a programmatic process of reshaping academic institutions and harnessing social dissonance since 2012.

Akademide Hak Ihlalleri Dosyasi III, Mayis 2013-Mayis 2015

Monday, April 18, 2016

The Science Academy Issues a Second Declaration on Freedom of Expression: "Freedom of Expression, Law, Democracy, Social Development and Power"

As we had reported in a February 29, 2012 GIT - NA posting The Science Academy, Turkey was founded as an independent science academy following the resignation of more than half of the members of Turkish Academy of Sciences (TUBA) due to AKP-government's intervention. The Executive Board of The Science Academy had issued a Declaration on Freedom of Expression on January 15, 2016 expressing "immense concern and worry" with the developments in the immediate aftermath of the academics' declaration "We will not be a party to this crime". On April 18, 2016 The Academy issued a detailed Second Declaration on Freedom of Expression. We present the full text below:

Freedom of Expression, Law, Democracy, Social Development and Power

In view of the fact that a group of academics (“Academics for Peace”) who signed a petition are facing pressures including dismissal and imprisonment, we would once again like to underscore citizens’ and academics’ freedom of expression, and right to express their opinions. These rights and freedoms constitute the sine qua non of democracy and the rule of law. The free sharing of opinions and information serves as a guarantee for social consensus and a healthy and democratic dialogue among all citizens. Academics, who are expected to produce and disseminate fresh information and so require a creative work environment, must enjoy not only rights and freedoms for intellectual studies in their own fields, but also the freedom of general political expression -which naturally all citizens are entitled to. The criminal punishment that they face for exercising their freedom of expression, and the investigations and sanctions that they are subjected to by university administrations as faculty members are not in accordance with the basic principles underpinning democracy and the university system.

United Nations Declaration of Human Rights and European Charter of Human Rights indicate that individuals’ expression of their thoughts and opinions -as long as this does not involve or provoke violence, defamation or slander- is a natural right. Law, and especially criminal law, stipulates that the exercise of a right cannot be considered a crime. Scientists are individuals who seek the truth, and make suggestions based on that truth they believe to have obtained; through academic discourse, they express the results yielded by their efforts in a specific field of expertise. However, as citizens, scientists also have the right to express their opinions in fields falling outside their field of expertise (extramural discourse). As long as it does not incite to violence or involve slander, such an act cannot be considered “disciplinary transgression” (which needs to be investigated by the university administration) or a crime to be persecuted on the basis of criminal law. It simply amounts to the exercise of a right.

Freedom of expression is not only important in and of itself, but also has crucial functions for the society at large. Free thought and expression lay the groundwork for scientific creativity, new technologies, and accordingly, economic development. In other words, they are key to social and human development. It is not by coincidence that countless innovations, ranging from mobile phones to driverless cars, originate in societies where freedoms are held in high esteem.

Free democracies not only have the most advanced economies, but also foster the unfettered and productive development of technology, culture, science and the arts. This is what makes such democracies a crucial hub of soft power. Young individuals hailing from all over the world are present in the universities, companies and cities of such countries, contributing to economic, cultural and political enhancement, and also honing their own skills. Freedoms open the door to economic and social development, while leading to an intensification of soft power which demands a creative cultural environment.

Accordingly, in our century, law, especially criminal law, has turned into a means for the protection of rights and freedoms, and particularly the freedom of expression. Criminal law is not a tool at the hands of the establishment which employs it to protect itself and muzzle the opposition and dissident voices. On the contrary, it functions as an instrument which ensures that the opposition and heterodox opinions can find expression without any worry and fear. In fact, in the absence of a confrontation between opposing ideas, it would be much harder if not impossible to get closer to truth and to create better practices. As such, freedom, free democracy, economic welfare and soft political power lay roots and prosper in societies which respond to ideas -that do not involve violence and slander- with other ideas, rather than imprisonment and persecution.

It is deeply worrying that Turkey has steered further and further away from these standards in recent years. Despite the gravity and intensity of threats against security, it is essential to protect freedoms. A discourse which turns scientists, thinkers, artists and intellectuals into scapegoats, discrediting, denigrating and otherizing them, would not only allow officials to suppress dissident opinions and deny the general public access to these opinions. Such attitudes and actions run counter to the interests of the society at a more general level as well.

In actual fact, the recent administrative and criminal measures not only breach such principles but go against the applicable legislation which they refer to. On the other hand, laws have to be in compliance with the Constitution, international conventions signed by Turkey, and resolutions of the Constitutional Court as well as the European Court of Human Rights. The fact that university administrations act on the instructions of the Higher Council of Education (YÖK), and judges and prosecutors on the statements of political authorities goes against the principle of the separation of powers, democracy and rule of law.

It is our duty to share with the general public our opinion that the current state of affairs is not conducive to social development and economic welfare, quality of Turkish democracy, nor political clout. In this respect, we deem it necessary to share the following observations:

  1. On 14 January 2015, the Constitutional Court ruled that a law had be drafted to regulate the administrative investigations carried out by universities in the framework of Higher Council of Education directives. The “omnibus” law regarding the issue has been submitted by the government to the Turkish parliament on 21 March 2016. As such, the administrative measures in question lack a legal basis as of yet.
  2. From the perspective of criminal law, the process is in breach of Turkish Criminal Code, Article 26 (“The exercise of a right cannot be penalized”), and we consider it very worrying that the lawsuit is grounded on the Anti-Terror Law, Article 7/2, despite the fact that the petition includes no element which could be considered “propaganda for a terrorist organization aimed to praise, legitimize or incite to the use of force, violence or threat”.
  3. Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu’s recent comments also suggest that there is no legitimate ground for the imprisonment of the academics pending trial. We would like share with the general public our belief that the release of the academics from prison would prevent damages which could be impossible to compensate, and strengthen Turkey’s claim to be a democratic state upholding the rule of law.
Executive Board of The Science Academy, Turkey

Academic Freedom, Freedom of Expression and Information Under Siege

Noam Chomsky joins the campaign #RaiseYourPenForFreedom in solidarity with the incarcerated academics and journalists who stand trial on April 22.

Problems with academic freedom are symptomatic of broader issues. In yet another report that demonstrates the gravity of the situation, a recent report on the human rights record of Turkey in 2015 prepared by the US Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor of the Department of State attests to this phenomenon.  As the four academics currently detained in high security prisons and two journalists will be standing trial on April 22, it becomes more evident that the government officials seek to silence those who articulate, call attention to or report problems, rather than addressing the problem itself.

According to the 2015 Turkey report, because of government pressure, "some contacts reported that they could not easily attend academic programs and practiced self-censorship on sensitive topics. Human rights organizations and student groups continued to criticize constraints placed on universities by law and by the actions of the Higher Education Board that limited the autonomy of universities in staffing, teaching, and research policies and practice." For example, "on April 10, the Ministry of Interior released a circular announcing that academics needed prior approval before conducting research on Syrian refugees living in the country, including surveys or fieldwork." It appears that the government is aggressively trying to control the production and circulation of knowledge.

Journalists face a similar problem. Muzaffer Kaya, one of the incarcerated academics, stated recently that April 22 will be Turkey's test with democracy. Meanwhile, as we already reported, a campaign has been initiated to support academics and journalists facing trials: #RaiseYourPenForFreedom.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Trial of the Imprisoned Signatories of the Peace Petition Will Be Held on April 22, 2016

The trial begins in four days. Below is the summarized English version of the indictment against the three signatories currently held in high security prisons. The reason why this indictment only includes three of them is because Meral Camcı, the fourth signatory currently in prison, was abroad when the other three were arrested before she returned and was also incarcerated. 


Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office
Terror and Organized Crime Investigation Bureau

Investigation No. 2016/36089
Docket No. 2016/13520
Indictment No. 2016/1328


To the (No.) High Criminal Court of Istanbul,


1- Muzaffer Kaya
2- Esra Mungan Gürsoy
3- Kıvanç Ersoy

Crime: Propagandizing for terrorist organization

Date and Place of Crime: January 11, 2016 – March 10, 2016, Istanbul

Date of Arrest: March 15, 2016

Applicable article: Anti-Terror Law Act No. 3713 Article 7/2

Evidences: The investigation report concerning the statement by Bese Hozat, the co-president of the PKK/KCK terrorist organization’s executive committee, on December 27, 2015; the investigation reports about the suspects concerning the press declarations by way of support for the PKK/KCK terrorist organization, which were made public on January 11, 2016 and March 10, 2016; records of statement and interrogation reports of the suspects and the arrest warrants for them; and the scope of the whole investigation file.


The AKP Government had started a “resolution process” in order to solve “the East and the Southeast problem in Turkey”[1], which began with the armed clashes in 1984 and continued since then, causing the death of thousands of people. In the process, the government had taken certain steps including the enactment of the law on July 15, 2014 regarding the “termination of terror and strengthening of social integration” and establishment of a committee of wise men with the participation of academics, writers, and artists from all seven geographical regions of Turkey (the the names of the committee members and the regions that they worked had been shared).

While this process was carried out by the government “despite all the preventions and difficulties” such as the attempt on February 7, 2012, (the summoning of the Undersecretary of the MIT[2] by the specially authorized prosecutor of the period for testimony as part of the KCK investigations), two policemen were shot dead in the nape by the PKK in their houses in Sanliurfa/Ceylanpinar as a reprisal for the suicide bomb attack by DAESH in Sanliurfa /Suruc on July 20, 2015.

Later on, during the operations initiated by the security forces when the PKK started digging trenches, raising barricades, and installing booby traps as of August 2015, PKK attacked the security forces with heavy weapons. The PKK/KCK local units declared “so-called” self-governments in cities like Sirnak, Silopi, Cizre, and in the town of Nusaybin.

Bese Hozat, the co-president of the PKK/KCK terrorist organization’s executive committee, urged the “intellectuals and democrats to support the self-governments” via the organization’s media channel on December 22, 2015, intended as instructions to the suspects.

Acting on this instruction, the “so-called” Democratic Society Congress (DTK) declared self-government in several other cities and towns and started to dig trenches and to raise barricades in these areas as well.

Due to these circumstances, the Governors of these cities imposed curfews and started “clean-up” operations “against the terrorists”.

According to the press release published on March 9, 2016on the official website of the Turkish Armed Forces, 120 terrorist organization members have been “liquidated” in joint operations carried out by the police and the military forces between February 16 and March 30, 2016, in Şırnak province, İdil district. Also, according to the press release published on March 10, 2016, 279 terrorist organization members have been “liquidated” and numerous barricades and trenches have been closed/removed in the operations carried out in Diyarbakır province, Sur district between December 18, 2015 and March 9, 2016.

Following the DTK declaration and the statement made by Bese Hozat, “the proclamation of support for the terrorist organization of PKK/KCK” which begins with the claim “we will not be a party to this crime”, and whose full text was included in the indictment, was published on January 11, 2016 by 1128 “persons” among whom there are also the suspects. The text of the “so-called peace proclamation” is evidently an open propaganda of the PKK/KCK terrorist organization.

The real purpose of the declaration is to create public opinion for the finalization of the operations that were started by the security forces in the regions, where so-called self-determination was declared, with the purpose of cleaning the regions off the terrorists and "ensuring peace and prosperity for the residents of the region”. The prosecution started the investigation number 2016/5734 upon the issuing of the declaration. In this process, when the statements of the suspects who signed the declaration started to be taken, a statement was issued under the titled of press release by the suspects Esra Mungan, Kıvanç Ersoy, Muzaffer Kaya, and Meral Camcı in the way of “insistently continuing to propagandize for the PKK terror organization and supporting the declaration with the purpose of preventing the other suspects from withdrawing their signatures and showing that they can still defy the Republic of Turkey"(the press release dated March 10, 2016 is cited).

The statements of the suspects taken on March 15, 2016at the office of the Prosecution contained the questions directed to them during the statement-taking;

In their statements, the suspects did not initially answer the questions that necessitated a statement of their opinions and convictions. They, instead, referred to what they have experienced following the declaration. They stated that the text was prepared collectively, they read the content of the text and understood what it meant, they were signatories of the text in the internet environment, and they were not informed about the statements of the person named Bese Hozat. Also, the suspects expressed that they signed this text containing harsh criticism in order to put an end to severe violations of rights experienced with the revival of the war atmosphere and to restart the peace process, the fundamental responsibility being on the government in this process, adding that the state officials who committed crimes should be put on trial and that they did not regret having signed the text.

As it has been understood that the suspects’ action is in the direction of the orders of Bese Hozat, the co-president of the PKK/KCK’s executive committee, and in support for the terrorist organization, that the terrorist organization has been legitimized under the name of “peace declaration”, that the state is accused of committing a massacre, that the suspects’ intention is to ensure the UN to send observers to the regions of the Turkish Republic where so-called self-governments are declared, and that the suspects make an effort to legitimize the self-governments which are referred to as local independence by the PKK, thereby constituting the crime of terrorist organization propaganda embodied in the Anti-Terror Law Act number 3713 Article 7/2, it is demanded that the suspects be punished according to the above mentioned article. March 22, 2016.

[1] Translator’s Note: In other words, the Kurdish problem.
[2] National Intelligence Organization

Friday, April 15, 2016

Academics for Peace issues a Call for International Academic Observers to the Trial in Istanbul on April 22, 2016

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

Since March 2016, four of our colleagues - Professors Esra Mungan Gürsoy, Meral Camcı, Kıvanç Ersoy and Muzaffer Kaya - are being held in pre-trial detention, accused of terrorist propaganda under Article 7/2 of Anti-Terrorism Law.

The official indictment refers to the original petition “We will not be a party to this crime” of January 11, 2016 as well as a press statement which the four read out on March 10, 2016. This press statement was delivered by Academics for Peace Istanbul to draw attention to the extent of the repressions which have unraveled against the signees since the original petition, especially to the disciplinary investigations, dismissals, forced resignations and the legal prosecutions. Now, they are facing a sentence from 1,5 to 7,5 years imprisonment.

While there is a chance that our colleagues could be released out of imprisonment in this first hearing, which would set a sign for the rest of the trial, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan most recently declared that our colleagues should “remain in prison throughout the trial” because they were “guilty”. 

But, Demanding Peace is no Crime!

On April 22, 2016, not only our four colleagues are on trial, but freedom of expression in Turkey as such! For, the trial against journalists Erdem Gül and Can Dündar has been scheduled for the same date. We stand in solidarity with all those raising their voices for peace and democracy because we, too, share the same dream and demand! 

We, therefore, call for international observers to the first hearing on April 22, 2016 before the 13th High Criminal Court, Çağlayan Courthouse, Istanbul at 2 pm. Your presence in court will not only give a strong sign of support for peace, democracy, and freedom of expression in Turkey, but will also have a positive effect on the fairness of the trial. 

In Solidarity,


Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Mersin University is leading the public universities in Turkey in firing Academics for Peace

From the Turkish daily Cumhuriyet

About forty of the signatories of the Petition for Peace have already lost their jobs. Most of these signatories were working at private universities where faculty members usually work with short term contracts (there is no tenure at Turkish private universities). Many public universities have started administrative review procedures against Academics for Peace. According to Kemal Göktaş, a reporter at the Turkish daily Cumhuriyet, Mersin University, however, found much more "creative" ways to fire Academics for Peace. With the addition of three new cases of firing that will be effective tomorrow (April 14), Mersin University will have fired six faculty members who signed the Petition for Peace. The details of one of these cases are quite revealing:

Veli Mert, an Assistant Professor of Fine Arts at Mersin University was up for a review for the renewal of his contract, the periods of which the presidency of the university shortened from three to two years without changing any formal regulations. In Turkish universities academics collect points for their research, which are then used to measure their readiness for renewal of contracts and, eventually, associate professorship with something like tenure at state universities. While one needs to have 60 points for the renewal of an assistant professorship contract, Dr. Mert had 419 points. Yet he was fired.

The committee that was appointed to review Dr. Mert's file by the Dean's office included, contrary to the regulations of the Higher Education Institution (Turkey's central administrative and regulatory agency for all universities), two members from outside the university. While Professor Nurseren Tor, who is a colleague of Dr. Mert at Mersin University, evaluated his file positively, Associate Professor Mutluhan Taş from Konya Selçuk University and Associate Professor Mehmet Özkartal from Isparta Süleyman Demirel University found the 419 points that Dr. Mert gathered not sufficient for the renewal of his contract. Later, the executive council of the Faculty of Fine Arts discussed this review and decided against the renewal of Dr. Mert's contract. Professor Tor, who had evaluated Dr. Mert's file positively, became one of the signatories of the decision against the contract renewal.

Earlier, Dr. Yasemin Karaca's contract for assistant professorship was not renewed based on the decision of a review committee all three members of which were appointed from outside the university.


Monday, April 11, 2016

#KalemlereOzgurluk #RaiseYourPenForFreedom

The "University of Metris Prison", an academics collective aiming to draw attention to the fact that Turkish prisons are being filled by academics and their students, have recently started a new twitter campaign with the hashtag #KalemlereOzgurluk #RaiseYour PenForFreedom.

The campaign aims to display solidarity with the four jailed academics Esra Mungan, Muzaffer Kaya, Meral Camci and Kivanc Ersoy as well as journalists Can Dundar and Erdem Gul, and raise awareness in the media and in the public about their trials, both of which will be held at the Caglayan Courthouse in Istanbul on April 22.  

7 Mimar Sinan University Students Sent to Court for Arrest

On April 5, 2016, 25 students and alumni of Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University (MSGSU) were detained in house raids on accusations of being a member or sympathizer of Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front (DHKP-C), staging protest in the campus, and defaming academics who don’t cooperate with the students. 

During their interrogation in the police station, the students were told that they had been taken into custody over a complaint from Assist. Prof. Dr. Esra Keskinkılıç, who used to teach Ottoman language at the Department of Turkish Language and Literature. Following the interrogation, on April 7, 17 out of the 25 students and graduates were released. However, seven students have been sent to court for arrest.

Attorney Efkan Bolac said they can’t access any document because of the confidentiality order, and that the students do not even know in detail what they are charged with.

Source: http://bianet.org/english/human-rights/173721-7-mimar-sinan-university-students-sent-to-court-for-arrest

10th Istanbul Gathering for Freedom of Expression 

Istanbul Gathering for Freedom of Expression, organized by the Initiative Against Thought Crime once every two years, has been held this year with the cooperation of bianet, Transparency International Turkey and Truth Justice Memory Center, on April 9-10, at the Intercontinental Hotel. 

Various international and national NGOs attended the gathering to discuss topics such as impunity, freedom of press and expression, defamation lawsuits, censor and state intervention in the legal system. Opening speeches were held by Berna Akkızal from the Initiative Against Thought Crime, Prof. Dr. Turgut Tarhanlı from İstanbul Bilgi University Faculty of Law, Erol Önderoğlu from bianet and Murat Çelikkan from Truth Justice Memory Center.
While talks on the first day of the gathering focused specifically on freedom of expression, human rights, academic freedom, pressure on journalism, internet censorship as they pertain to cases in Turkey talks on the second day placed these issues in a more global perspective and looked at the worldwide crisis of freedom of expression. The Istanbul gathering ended with the forum “Wars, Refugees and Reflexions on Freedom of Expression”.

Source: http://bianet.org/english/world/173812-istanbul-gathering-ends-with-forum-wars-refugees-reflexions-on-freedom-of-expression 

Sunday, April 10, 2016

"Destination Turkey": 
Turkish Minister of Science, Technology and Industry and the Scientific and Technological Research Council (TÜBİTAK) Protested at MIT in Boston

abd tubitak  
Scholars in Boston Protest the Turkish officials and TÜBİTAK during their visit at MIT. 
Photo from Diken.
At a time when academics are detained for signing a petition and calling for peace with Kurds, and President Erdoğan is calling those academics "terrorists" and claims they have no difference from those who take arms, and demands stripping them from their Turkish citizenship, the Turkish Minister of Science, Technology and Industry and the Scientific and Technological Research Council (TÜBİTAK) started a tour in the United States to show what a great place Turkey is for science and research.

TÜBİTAK has been a controversial institution, since many of its workers were forced to resign under the pressure of criminal investigations (that did not turn into an indictment and therefore not publicly available) threatening to tie hundreds of TÜBİTAK scientists to the sham trials that had shaken the country in the late 2000s. The first signs of this purge were felt in 2009, when the new administrators sought to censor Darwin on the occasion of his 200th birthday.  In an earlier post, we have already addressed how scientific institutions were under attack by the successive AKP administrations and how TÜBİTAK was finally taken over with decree laws in 2011, ending the institution's relative autonomy.

TÜBİTAK is an important institution as the scientific base for making decisions on technological bidding, weapons, but also an authority for computer forensics. Regardless of whether the allegations of this is why the Gülenists wanted to take over the institution when they were in good terms with the AKP are true or not, the scandals of the institution since the new director was appointed after the decree law that removed the former director in August 2011, ended with yet another scandal: after the AKP fallout with Gülenists, the director first resigned and then taken into custody. This was part of the second wave of purging the personnel at TÜBİTAK that occurred over the last decade.

Now, TÜBİTAK together with the Minister of Science, Technology and Industry invites scientists at the MIT, Yale, Nature Jobs Career Expo in San Francisco, and UC San Diego, to join a research destination Turkey. Their poster claims the conference "will provide an overview of the major developments in the past years in Turkish Research Area."

Unfortunately, the "major developments in the past years in Turkish Research Area," as the poster phrases it, include an array of arrests, power struggles, government encroachment on (relatively) autonomous institutions and areas of research and expertise, attempts at criminalization of research, teaching and the freedom of expression, and termination as exemplified in the recent case of the signatories of (what came to be known as) the Peace Petition.

At MIT, TÜBİTAK and the Minister of Science, Technology and Industry were thus protested. The protesters brought back reality into the picture, and the Minister decided to cancel his speech. It is a pity, because it would have been interesting to see how he would handle questions in an environment where freedom of expression still persists.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Amnesty International's Urgent Action Alert:  

ACADEMICS DETAINED for signing peace appeal - please write to the addresses below.

On 15 March three academics who signed an appeal for peace in January 2016 were charged with “making propaganda for a terrorist organization”. If convicted they face up to seven and a half years’ imprisonment. A fourth academic was detained on 31 March for signing the same appeal. The four are currently in pre-trial detention. 

Academics Muzaffer Kaya, Esra Mungan, Kıvanç Ersoy and Meral Camcı are amongst the over 2,000 signatories to a petition criticizing ongoing curfews and security operations in south eastern Turkey and calling for a resumption of peace talks between Turkey and the armed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Shortly after the publication of the petition on 11 January 2016, the Ankara and Istanbul Chief Prosecutors opened a criminal investigation into its initial signatories, including the four academics.

In a press conference on 10 March, Muzaffer Kaya, Esra Mungan, Kıvanç Ersoy and Meral Camcı renewed their call for peace and condemned the harassment of academics who had signed the petition, on behalf of all the signatories to the original statement. Subsequently, the Istanbul Chief Prosecutor opened a new separate investigation accusing the four academics of “making propaganda for a terrorist organisation”.

On 15 March the court granted the prosecutor’s request that Muzaffer Kaya, Esra Mungan and Kıvanç Ersoy be remanded in pre-trial detention and found that “…despite knowing that the terrorist organisation [the PKK] is the source of the violence, the statement notably does not criticise or condemn the terrorist organisation, demonstrating that the defendants in reality support the actions of the terrorist organisation.” Meral Camcı was abroad when the arrest warrant was issued and returned to Turkey on 30 March. On 31 March she was remanded in pre-trial detention in Bakırköy women’s prison in Istanbul along with Esra Mungan.

Esra Mungan was held in isolation in Bakırköy prison until 28 March. Muzaffer Kaya and Kıvanç Ersoy were held in isolation from other detainees between 24 March and 4 April. They are currently being held in Silivri prison, near Istanbul. The first objection to the pre-trial detention of Esra Mungan, Muzaffer Kaya and Kıvanç Ersoy was rejected on 28 March and a hearing date was set for 22 April. A decision on the objection to the pre-trial detention of Meral Camcı is still pending.

The statements made by the four academics at the 10 March press conference, and the 11 January petition of the 1,128 original signatories in no way represent incitement to violence and are protected under the right to freedom of expression.

Please write immediately in Turkish or your own language:

 - Calling on the Turkish authorities to release the four detained academics (Muzaffer Kaya, Esra Mungan, Kıvanç Ersoy and Meral Camcı) and drop the charges against them;

 - Urging them not to hold any of the detained academics in solitary confinement whilst they are in detention;

 - Calling on them to drop the investigations into the academics who originally signed the petition.


Minister of Justice
Mr Bekir Bozdağ
Ministry of Justice
Adalet Bakanlığı
06659 Ankara, Turkey

Fax: +90 312 417 71 13
Salutation: Dear Minister

Minister of Interior
Mr Efkan Ala
İçişleri Bakanlığı
Ankara, Turkey
Fax: +90 312 418 1795
Salutation: Dear Minister

And copies to:
Chair of the Human Rights Institution
Dr Hikmet Tülen
Yüksel Caddesi No. 23, Kat 3, Yenişehir
06650 Ankara, Turkey

Fax: +90 312 422 29 96
Email: tihk@tihk.gov.tr

Also send copies to:
Ambassador Namik Tan, Embassy of the Republic of Turkey
2525 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Washington DC 20008
Phone: 1 202 612 6729 Fax: 1 202 612 6744 Email: embassy.washingtondc@mfa.gov.tr

Ambassador Selcuk Unal, Embassy of the Republic of Turkey
197 Wurtemburg Stree, Ottawa, Ontario K1N 8L9 Canada
Phone: 1 613 244 2470 Fax: 1 623 789 3442 Email: embassy.ottawa@mfa.gov.tr

Please let us know if you took action so that we can track our impact! EITHER send a short email to uan@aiusa.org with “UA 78/16” in the subject line, and include in the body of the email the number of letters and/or emails you sent, Thank you for taking action! Please check with the AIUSA Urgent Action Office if taking action after the appeals date.

Source: http://www.amnestyusa.org/get-involved/take-action-now/turkey-release-detained-academics-ua-7816

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

The University of Metris Prison opens its doors to public

The "University of Metris Prison" is the work of an academics collective whose members aim at raising awareness about the fact that Turkish prisons are being filled by academics and their students. You can reach them through their website, twitter page, facebook page, and youtube page.

Freedom Watch for the detained Academics for Peace continues

The Freedom Watch, on which we reported earlier, continued today in front of the Silivri Prison where two signatories of the Academics for Peace petition, Muzaffer Kaya and Kıvanç Ersoy, are being held. Several professors from Turkish universities and a representative from the labor union of educators were present. For a report on today's Freedom Watch, see Medyascope where you can also watch videos taken at the scene.

Global Freedom of Expression Awards dedicated to the Academics for Peace

Professor Yaman Akdeniz and Associate Professor Kerem Altiparmak, who were the recipients of the Global Freedom of Expression Awards at Columbia University, dedicated their awards to the Academics for Peace.

Akdeniz and Altiparmak received the award for challenging a Turkish court, which denied access to You Tube, at the European Court of Human Rights.

You may watch videos of the awards ceremony at

Scholars at Risk (SAR) responds to the Turkish Minister of Education

In a public letter, the Scholars at Risk Network reminded the Turkish Minister of Education, Nabi Avcı, that "the asking of questions and expression of ideas—especially disputed or unpopular ideas—is not only essential to quality higher education; it is the root of democratic legitimacy and rule of law." This letter was a response to Nabi Avcı's reply to SAR's earlier letter.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Interpreter and author Ayşe Sarısayın censored for her support for Academics for Peace

Prominent Turkish author and poet Behçet Necatigil's daughter Ayse Sarısayın, an author and interpreter herself, was interviewed by the journal Türk Edebiyatı Dergisi [Journal of Turkish Literature] for its April issue, which was to have a special file on Necatigil. However, upon learning Sarısayın's support for Academics for Peace, the editorial board of the journal has decided to not publish the interview. In her reply to Funda Özsoy Erdoğan, who had conducted the interview, Sarısayın said: "I was startled, very startled. Maybe what should have startled me is not this attitude but the fact that those who are displaying such an attitude could have thought of preparing a special file on Necatigil, to begin with. More than a 'wrong' conducted against you or me, I deem this attitude as a gross injustice to Necatigil himself".

Upon learning about the journal's attitude, Prof. Dr. Handan İnci, faculty member at Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University's Turkish Language and Literature Department, tweeted: "It is so sad to see that the disturbing intolerance that has become quite widespread among all the layers of the society is being exemplified even in the case of Behçet Necatigil, a leading poet who has been criticized all his life for wanting to take no sides apart from that of 'the literature'."

Source: http://www.diken.com.tr/cadi-avi-behcet-necatigilin-kizina-uzandi-soylesiye-sansur/

Indictment seeks 7.5 years for jailed academician Dr. Meral Camcı

Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor's Office has completed an indictment against Dr. Meral Camcı who was arrested upon her return to Turkey from France on March 31, 2016. The indictment seeks a jail term of 1.5 to 7.5 years for Camcı who is accused of "making propaganda of a terrorist organization". The prosecutor demanded that the file of Camcı be combined with that of the imprisoned academicians Esra Mungan, Kıvanç Ersoy and Muzaffer Kaya. If approved, the indictment will be sent to Istanbul 13th High Criminal Court. Refusing accusations against her, Camcı, in her testimony at the court, had said: "For me, the sole aim of both texts [referring to the petition signed by the Academics for Peace as well as a second statement supporting the petition] was to immediately implement a peace process. As a citizen and an academician I do what i have to do: say my word and stand by it and follow it up; this is not a crime. Criticism is not a crime. I believe I have exercised my right to freedom of expression"

Source: http://www.evrensel.net/haber/276730/akademisyen-meral-camci-icin-de-7-5-yil-hapis-cezasi-istendi