Tuesday, November 12, 2013

In Solidarity with METU

In solidarity with the faculty and students of Middle East Technical University (METU) Resistance against the unlawful and destructive highway construction project passing through the campus forest, GIT - North America publishes the full text of the support statement signed by 857 academics from 278 academic institutions and twenty-six different countries.

Ankara Metropolitan Municipality, led by the AKP (Justice and Development Party) has, despite opposition, initiated a road construction project that goes through a forest area located in Ankara’s inner city , which is also property of Middle East Technical University (METU).

University students, the University faculty as well as the residents of the neighborhood located right next to the campus have opposed this project. Student resistance initially halted various attempts by the Municipal demolition teams to cut down the trees. Although the University administration’s appeal of Ankara Municipality’s proposed plan was still under legal consideration, the Municipality committed an environmental massacre by destroying 3,000 trees on the night of October 18. The land was cleared overnight, without any prior notice or permission. The night raid of the Ankara Municipality demolition teams backed by riot police was followed by an army of construction vehicles, working day and night to complete the unlawful highway as soon as possible.  Meanwhile, the government foiled all possible legal attempts to resolve the conflict. The police have responded to the opposition from the University with excessive use of tear gas and water cannons. In other words, METU’s fight for its forest has also become a fight for its democratic right to protest and to exercise its freedom of speech.
This act shows how the government turns a blind eye to the environmental concerns of the people as firmly expressed during the Gezi Uprising.  The attack on METU confirms the government’s commitment to sacrifice public green space for the ongoing construction projects. We also state that this action poses a vivid example of the government’s encroachment on the autonomy of higher education in Turkey.

We, the undersigned academics, condemn the unlawful environmental massacre and the police brutality in the Middle East Technical University campus. It is an unethical and unacceptable attack on METU as well as the academia in Turkey. We declare our full support and solidarity with all resisting METU students, academic personnel and staff.

In solidarity,

The full list of signatories and more information on the attack against METU campus and academic freedom can be found here.