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.


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”.


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

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:

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:

Please let us know if you took action so that we can track our impact! EITHER send a short email to 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.


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'."


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"


Saturday, April 2, 2016

Academic Award Dedicated to the Academics for Peace Disturbed the Member of the Turkish Council of Higher Education

Erol Akçay, Assistant Professor of Biology. Photo from Evrensel.

On 2 April 2016, Turkish American Scientists & Scholars Association (TASSA) awarded Erol Akçay, Assistant Professor of Biology at the University of Pennsylvania, the first prize of "TASSA Young Scholar Awards." The award was given during the annual TASSA Conference. The theme of this year is "Science and Society" and the guests included Fikri Işık, Minister of Science, Industry and Technology of Turkey, as well as Abdullah Çavuşoğlu, member of the Turkish Council of Higher Education (YÖK).

YÖK is originally founded by the military government in an attempt to control, regulate and end the autonomy of universities after the 1980 military coup. As a recent letter by the Middle East Studies Association has noted, rather than curtailing YÖK's power, the civilian government of AKP has increased its powers and further enabled its tight grip over the higher education. More recently, YÖK has also been instrumental in pressurizing universities to open investigations against the signatories of the Peace Petition.

At the TASSA ceremony, Erol Akçay dedicated his award to those academics who are imprisoned and whose academic positions have been suspended or terminated. According to the news report by Evrensel, this dedication disturbed the YÖK member Abdullah Çavuşoğlu who was present in the TASSA Conference at the University of Chicago. Çavuşoğlu reportedly asked Erol Akçay whether it is customary in the U.S. to dedicate academic awards to those "who support terrorists." Erol Akçay replied that the incarcerated academics are not in prison because they support terrorists, but because they asked for peace. "They are in prison for having exercised their freedom freedom of expression," he asserted.

In addition to Esra Mungan, Kıvanç Ersoy, and Muzaffer Kaya who were arrested and sent to prison on March 15th, academic Meral Camcı was also imprisoned following her return to Turkey on March 31st.

Serpil Sancar, Dean of the Faculty of Political Sciences at Ankara University: Police has Provocative Attitude on Campus, 19 Students Taken into Custody

Police at the Ankara University Campus
News from BIANET on April 1st, 2016:

Dean of Faculty of Political Sciences (SBF) at Ankara University, Prof. Dr. Serpil Sancar has made a statement as to the police violence and detention of 19 students that occurred yesterday (March 31).
Sancar calling students via Mülkiye Haber (Mülkiye News) has expressed that students acted carefully to not allow any tension by acting responsibly despite police’s provocative attitude.
Sancar highlighting that police used gas unrestrainedly has called SBF Academic Council for meeting today at 3 p.m.
Sancar’s statement is briefly as follows:

“They threw gas even though I said I was dean”

“Today, on March 31 Thursday, as midterm exams are going on at the SBF, Riot Squad entering the campus to prevent the fight erupted among students, acted in a provocative way against students without a reason or problem by breaking into the SBF a couple of times.
“Later on, they forced the students at the Faculty garden to enter the building, batter the academics trying to come between them, and fired gas cartridge to where I stood even though I said I was dean. A large number of personnel, students, and lecturers (including me) have been disturbed because of this.
“During these incidents, the students haven’t reacted negatively by acting circumspectly and that behaved responsibly to not prepare an environment of tension with the police”.

Gas capsule at the academic hall

“One of the gas cartridges got into one of our lecturers’ pocket and the lecturer entered Academic Meeting hall without realizing it to follow the conference.
“A while later, the gas cartridge exploding in the conference hall caused a huge panic”.

“Police have been hindering education for a few weeks”

“Education has been suspended for a day since it is impossible to make midterm exams within the issues in subject.
“Riot Squad entering the campus in order to intervene in the banners hung on the wall have been apart from this reason behaving badly against students and lecturers who were unaware of the incident in the faculty building for a few weeks, and causing chaos to an extent to hinder the education.
“Under these circumstance, I am calling SBF Academic Council for meeting today at 3 p.m.” (EKN/TK)

The SBF Academic Council has met, and decided to support the Faculty of Political Sciences. You can reach their decision statement from here.

Erdoğan's security guards act like they are in Turkey during his visit to the US

Turkish security struggle to take a sign away from protesters in front of the Brookings Institute.
Photograph: Joshua Roberts/Reuters        

Erdoğan's security guards attacked journalists and protesters on the streets of Washington, DC, right before he was about to arrive at the Brookings Institution. According to Foreign Policy, "Brookings President Strobe Talbott told a Turkish official that the organization was prepared to call off the visit even though Erdogan’s motorcade was already en route to the event." The Brookings Institution acknowledged the "harassment on the part of Turkish security personnel." As reported by the Guardian, Amberin Zaman, a public policy scholar at the Wilson Center and former Economist correspondent in Turkey, stated that "This is not unusual behavior for his security detail. They act with impunity and there is no evidence they are reprimanded for it. I would like to think we’re safe in the United States but we’re not. We’re vulnerable to bullying by Mr Erdoğan’s security detail even in the capital.”

Friday, April 1, 2016

Dr. Meral Camcı's Letter - written one day before she returned to Turkey

An arrest warrant was issued for Drs. Esra Mungan, Kıvanç Ersoy, Muzaffer Kaya and Meral Camcı for a Press Release they read on March 10, 2016 on behalf of Academics for Peace. Drs. Mungan, Ersoy and Kaya were arrested on March 15. Dr. Camcı was in vacation in France at the time of their arrest, she returned to Istanbul on March 30 and was arrested the next day. The following is the letter she sent to her friends the day before her return trip.

Hello Dear Friends, 

Yes, I’m coming back tomorrow. I’m returning from a trip that I had started not to stay away but to come back in the first place. Soon after our press conference, I had come to Paris for a short time to visit my child who is studying here for the last four years. Three days after I arrived here, I learned that they came to my house with an arrest warrant. Even though I was not with them, I lived through from a distance the process of our friends’ detention and arrest both in my mind and in my heart just as you did. It never occurred to me to stay abroad or extend my trip. Following the advice of our dear and valued lawyers, I waited for the result of our first plea to the court for an annulment of this unlawful arrest and for the possibility of our friends’ rightful release. This process was completed yesterday when the court rejected our plea and I booked my return flight: I’ll land Yesilkoy Airport on Wednesday, March 30 at 2.20 pm.

I am writing this statement with a sense of morale and value that our togetherness and solidarity inspires in me. My decision to return is of course taken voluntarily and in all sincerity. From my perspective, this is a decision based on a foregone conclusion. Just as it was inevitable that I signed the [peace] petition and later the press statement. This is as certain as my belief in a country that lives in peace, equality, together in all its differences, and in a democratic country without any buts or ifs. I see the struggle for peace as a process. We are but in one moment of this process – a process that has a past as well as a future.

Against all odds I have not lost hope in this country; we wanted peace and we will stand by our words come what may. We will expose the universities that trample [academics'] rights and we have promised we will transform the universities as well as change this country… This is a debt I feel I have towards the youth, to children and to my students whom I was forced to leave. If this is the price they say we should pay, we will do that with honour and peace of mind because we are in the right. If they jail us, so be it, we will defend ourselves from jail holding our heads high, then we will be released and we will continue in our path.

We will carry this burden in our hearts together my friends … just as we wrote with a friend in our private correspondance. Unless we do not free our minds, it does not matter which side of the wall we are sitting. We will break down those walls and then we will be free. And we will do that by working both from the inside and the outside. Now, it is time for me to be there. All of you are of course familiar with Socrates’s defense. He says “exile is the greatest punishment that can be given to any man,” and I cannot live a life that I have not chosen of my own free will. Because in that case I will not be me. I will stand by my words for peace and I will continue the struggle.

This is the only way for me to be human since last June and to continue being human. This is also the only way I can continue my scientific work, research and production.

With love and in solidarity,

AAUP Statement Protests Turkish Supression of Academic Freedom

The following statement signed by American Association of University Professors (AAUP) President Rudy Fichtenbaum and First Vice-President Henry Reichman was released on March 30, 2016:

The American Association of University Professors does not normally take positions on alleged violations of or threats to academic freedom outside the United States, both because we are hesitant to impose our standards on others, whose histories and situations may differ, and because we are usually incapable of conducting in other countries the kind of thorough investigations we require to place American institutions on our censure list.

But the current situation in Turkey, where most recently three scholars have been jailed and a British scholar deported for allegedly “making terrorist propaganda,” cannot pass without protest. The arrests and deportation were but the latest actions taken against 1,128 Turkish professors who in January signed an Academics for Peace petition calling for an end to the military campaign against Kurdish separatists in southeastern Turkey. More than a thousand additional academics have signed the appeal since then. Scholars who signed were accused by president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of “treason” and have suffered an array of repercussions, including criminal investigations and university-level disciplinary proceedings. According to reports, almost 800 academics who signed the letter have faced action either by their university, state authorities, or both. Thirty-eight have been dismissed, 29 suspended and 531 face an administrative investigation. Other faculty members who signed the petition have been denounced and threatened on social media. Some have received intimidating visits in their campus offices by groups of nationalist students.

A total of 1,406 academics from 62 countries have now signed a further letter calling on the international community to urge Turkey’s government to “stop the witch-hunt” against dissident academics, “respect academic freedom, free the arrested academics, and reinstate all the academics suspended or expelled during the persecution campaign with compensation.”

The arrests of the three academics came a day after President Erdoğan called for a broadening of the definition of terrorism. He said there was no difference between “a terrorist holding a gun or a bomb and those who use their position and pen to serve the aims” of terrorists. Erdoğan added that this could be a journalist, a lawmaker or an activist. According to many observers, the crackdown on academics is part of a wider effort by President Erdoğan to stifle criticism of government policies and restrict liberties in the country. A number of journalists have been imprisoned in recent months, and earlier in March the government seized the offices of an opposition newspaper, Zaman, the second largest newspaper in the country.

Now the government has reportedly drafted a new bill to suppress academic freedom. According to the draft bill, any professors involved with “activities that have separatist claims or terror activities, or acts in support of this” may be dismissed from their positions and lose public offices. Under the proposal, the state higher education authority may move against scholars for “crimes” of political and ideological petition; propagating for political parties; and discrimination based on language, race, color, gender, political thoughts, philosophical belief, religion and sect.

In January, US ambassador to Turkey John Bass issued this statement:

We are seeing reports of academics being investigated and subjected to penalties for expressing their opinions about the conflict in the southeast. While we may not agree with the opinions expressed by those academics, we are nevertheless concerned about this pressure having a chilling effect on legitimate political discourse across Turkish society regarding the sources of and solutions to the ongoing violence. In democratic societies it is imperative that citizens have the opportunity to express their views, even controversial or unpopular ones.

Expressions of concern about violence do not equal support for terrorism. Criticism of government does not equal treason. Turkish democracy is strong enough and resilient enough to embrace free expression of uncomfortable ideas.

We applaud the ambassador’s statement and share his concern, which can only be intensified by the subsequent developments described above. Until recently Turkey had a reputation for leaving scholars alone to pursue their interests, at least relative to its neighbors. Many Arab students and even faculty members have moved to Turkish institutions in recent years. But the current crackdown could lessen Turkey’s academic appeal. On behalf of the AAUP, we join with our colleagues in the international scholarly community in calling on the Turkish government to stop the witch-hunt against Academics for Peace, respect academic freedom, free the arrested academics, and reinstate all the academics suspended or expelled during the persecution campaign with compensation.

—Rudy Fichtenbaum, President, American Association of University Professors
—Henry Reichman, First Vice-President and Chair, Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure, American Association of University Professors

The New York Review of Books - Turkey's Attack on Teachers

The Letter to be published in the April 21, 2016 issue of the New York Review of Books:

by Kwame Anthony Appiah, Seyla Benhabib, Judith Butler, Drucilla Cornell, and Jan-Werner Müller, et al.

To the Editors:

We write to express our dismay at the deterioration of freedoms of expression, association, and personal security faced by our colleagues in Turkish universities and the media.

University professors Esra Mungan, Muzaffer Kaya, and Kıvanç Ersoy were arrested on charges of spreading “terrorist propaganda” because they signed a petition condemning the Turkish government’s security operations in cities of the southeast, owing to the disastrous impact on the Kurdish civilian population. Made public at an Istanbul news conference on January 11, the petition also called for a resumption of peace talks with the PKK.

For signing the petition, at least thirty-eight academics have been dismissed and twenty-nine suspended by their universities. An Istanbul prosecutor is investigating all academics who signed the petition. Those who have been arrested could face up to five years’ imprisonment.

While we forcefully condemn the suicide bombings of civilians that have recently plagued Turkey, we insist that it is unwise to silence any critique of the government’s dealings with its Kurdish population when the general security situation in the country is deteriorating.

Before the Gezi Park protests of 2013, the ruling AK Party had initiated a peace process with Kurds, and Turkey had an opportunity to become a more pluralist, tolerant, open, and vibrant society. As social scientists and theorists in different fields, we followed these developments closely, but now we observe the near-collapse of a constitutional multiparty democracy and the move toward authoritarian presidentialism, the emergence of government by plebiscites and decrees, the squashing of the opposition, and the silencing of civil society institutions. None of these developments is necessary. Turkey still has strong and exemplary parliamentary, judicial, scientific, and civic institutions that can navigate this period of multiple crises.

We call upon the Turkish government and judicial authorities to suspend all charges against academics who signed the petition, and we ask that individuals who have lost their academic positions be reinstated with due process.

We encourage the AK Party and its representatives to return to the spirit of uzlasma(reconciliation) with Turkey’s Kurdish citizens who are in search of an acceptable resolution to a conflict that is growing all the more dangerous because of the instability on Turkey’s borders and the Middle East region.

Valérie Amiraux, University of Montreal
Talal Asad, CUNY Graduate Center
Anthony Appiah, New York University
Albena Azmanova, University of Kent, Brussels School of International Relations
Zehra Arat, University of Connecticut
Etienne Balibar, Université de Paris-Ouest Nanterre and Kingston University London
Seyla Benhabib, Yale University
Richard Bernstein, New School for Social Research
Darin Barney, McGill University
Claudia Berger, Indiana University
Akeel Bilgrami, Columbia University
Patrick Brantlinger, Indiana University (Emeritus)
Susan Buck-Morss, CUNY Graduate Center
Judith Butler, University of California at Berkeley
Giancarlo Bosetti, Journalist, Italy
Purnima Bose, Indiana University
Wendy Brown, University of California at Berkeley
Claude Calame, Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales
Robin Celikates, University of Amsterdam
Benoit Challand, New School for Social Research
Gabrielle Coleman, McGill University
Drucilla Cornell, Rutgers University
Alex Demirovic, Goethe-University, Frankfurt
Alessandro Ferrara, University of Rome, Tor Vergata
Didier Fassin, Institute for Advanced Study
Rainer Forst, Goethe-Universitaet, Frankfurt
Josef Früchtl, University of Amsterdam
Nancy Fraser, New School for Social Research
Stefan Gosepath, Freie Universitaet Berlin
Sally Haslanger, MIT
Axel Honneth, University of Frankfurt and Columbia University
Dick Howard, SUNY at Stony Brook (Emeritus)
Engin Isin, The Open University, London
Rahel Jaeggi, Humboldt University Berlin and New School for Social Research
Serhat Karakayali, Humboldt University Berlin
Volker Kaul, University of Rome
Ivan Krastev, Journalist, Sofia and Vienna
Regina Kreide, Justus Liebig University Giessen
Daniel Loick, Frankfurt and New York
Michel Lowy, CNRS Paris (Emeritus)
Oliver Marchart, University of Vienna
Rosalind C. Morris, Columbia University
Jan-Werner Müller, Princeton University
Frederick Neuhouser, Barnard College
Christian Neuhäuser, Technical University Dortmund
Peter Niessen, University of Hamburg
Kalypso Nikoalidis, Oxford University
Anne Querrien, co-editor of journal Multitudes
Bruce Robbins, Columbia University
Hartmut Rosa, Jena University
Juliane Rebentisch, Offenbach University of Art and Design
Benjamin Robinson, Indiana University
Martin Saar, Liepzig University
Guillaume Sibertin-Blanc, Toulouse University
James Sleeper, Yale University, Journalist
Céline Spector, Université Bordeaux Montaigne
Ferdinand Sutterlüty, Goethe University Frankfurt
Judith Revel, Universite de Paris Ouest Nanterre
Beate Roessler, University of Amsterdam
William Scheuerman, Indiana University
Etienne Tassin, Université Paris Diderot
Bert van den Brink, Utrecht University
Eleni Varikas, University of Paris (Emeritus)
Nguyen Vu Thuc Linh, European University Institute
Sophie Wahnich, CNRS, Paris
Michael Walzer, Institute for Advanced Study (Emeritus)
Frieder Otto Wolf, Freie Universität Berlin