Open letter: Victimised academics in Turkey need support


Destruction caused by Turkish military in Diyarbakır (Amed), Turkish Kurdistan (Bakur), February 20.

Australians for Kurdistan (AfK) is circulating an open letter urging Australian academics to support their colleagues in Turkey, who are facing massive repression by the government for denouncing the war on the Kurds.

The letter was initiated by AfK member John Tully, who is an Honorary Professor at Victoria University in Melbourne. He is urging his fellow academics to sign the appeal, which has the support of the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU), by emailing AustraliansforKurdistan@gmail.com with a copy to John.Tully@vu.edu.au giving their institution, title and state.

“The seriousness of the situation is difficult to exaggerate,” said Tully. “Turkey is sliding towards open dictatorship and the war on the Kurds has reached a critical stage. Our academic colleagues are facing imprisonment and possible death at the hands of fascists.”

The NTEU is also circulating a statement of support by the International Scholars at Risk, which can be viewed on its website.

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As scholars associated with universities and higher education institutions in Australia, we are extremely disturbed by Turkey's recent treatment of academics who have spoken out against atrocities being committed by the Turkish state against Kurdish civilians in the eastern parts of the country.

Some 1128 Turkish and Kurdish “Academics for Peace” have courageously signed a statement entitled “We Will Not Be A Party To This Crime”, which calls on the Turkish government to cease hostilities against its Kurdish population. Since the publication of this statement, these academics have been subject to a sustained campaign of abuse and violence from both the Turkish state and its supporters.

In recent speeches, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has publicly denounced these academics. Subsequently, prosecutors have begun proceedings to charge all 1128 of the original signatories with “propagandising for a terrorist organisation” and “overtly insulting the Turkish nation, the State of the Republic of Turkey, the Grand National Assembly of Turkey, the Government of the Republic of Turkey and the judicial organs of the state”.

Signatories have also been publicly exposed in the press and social media by government supporters and nationalists, leading to fears of reprisals from fascists who have declared they will “spill the blood” of the signatories. Many of the signatories also face disciplinary proceedings and possible sackings from their institutions.

Twenty-two academics have so far been taken into custody. If convicted of these charges they could face one to five years imprisonment. The legitimacy of the arrests has already been questioned by prominent legal experts and described as “extra-legal” decisions.

These unjust acts are unfolding in a context of continuing state violence against Kurds. In December alone, 100 Kurds were killed as a result of military operations conducted by the Turkish state. Since August, there have been 52 open-ended and round-the-clock curfews imposed on more than 1 million inhabitants in south-east Turkey.

In such a context, the clampdown on academic freedom constitutes another moment in the deepening authoritarianism of the Turkish state. This includes attacks on not only academics but also the continuing imprisonment and deaths of journalists, opposition MPs, lawyers and activists.

We call on the Turkish government to stop the prosecutions, immediately release all those imprisoned and commit to the principles of academic freedom and free speech. We moreover reaffirm the Academics for Peace call on the Turkish government to cease their hostilities against the Kurds.

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