Turkey Has Begun Arresting Academics For Speaking Out Against State Violence


19 academics have been detained so far. You can join a global petition demanding an end to Turkey’s actions, explain Shannon Brincat and Federica Caso.

The increasingly authoritarian actions of the Turkish government against its own people in the south-east, and the arrest of academics who have spoken out for peace, have been met with condemnation by the international academic community. In fact, it has led to what is perhaps the largest mobilization of the international scholarly community since, perhaps, the anti-apartheid movement.

In recent weeks, Turkish forces have attacked Kurdish provinces and towns using heavy weapons, killing some 162 citizens. The towns of Sur, Silvan, Nusaybin, Cizre, Silopi, remain under curfew.

In response to these attacks, over 1,100 academics, the majority of which were Turkish citizens, signed the Academics for Peace declaration calling for “an immediate end to the violence perpetrated by the state” and criticising Turkish military operations in the south-east.

Signatories have since been accused of “treason” by President Erdoğan and charged with “propagandizing for a terrorist organization.”

Signatories have received death threats on social media and from nationalist groups. The Turkish Council of Higher Education has vowed to take punitive measures against them. Some have been fired or suspended, others are being personally targeted.

Amnesty International has described the detention of 19 signatories as an assault on the right to freedom of expression. Students from Boğaziçi University have even been arrested, charged with “spreading terrorist propaganda,” for comments made on social media supporting academics threatened by the Turkish government.

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The response of the international scholarly community has been of overwhelming solidarity. The call by the Academics for Peace has been echoed across the globe, with many academics from outside Turkey signing the document, but also with similar petitions being created from academic groups in the UK, USA, Canada, across the EU, and elsewhere.

As an example, there is a public statement from leading professional associations on ‘International Studies’ that voices concern for the protection of free speech and academic freedom in Turkey. The largest website collecting these petitions can be found at tumblr.

Academics from Australia and New Zealand have begun a similar petition signed by over forty individuals. The Australian Political Science Association (APSA) will be examining the issue in its first executive meeting in March.

These petitions follow the calls made elsewhere, asking for Turkish authorities to cease armed attacks immediately and, as a minimum, allow independent observers to monitor and report on these incidents.

They ask for concrete steps to be taken towards negotiations for a lasting peace that places the freedom of all Turkish peoples at its core.

The voice of the international academic community is only part of the global condemnation of these recent attacks in Turkey, adding pressure for peace, and perhaps most importantly, letting those oppressed within Turkey know that their plight is recognised across the world.

The struggles for freedom of thought, expression, and speech are, after all, basic human rights and essential for any functioning democracy.

To add your voice to the petition and support our colleagues in Turkey, email your name and affiliation to academic.activism@gmail.com



Shannon Brincat is a Griffith University Research Fellow and co-editor of the journal Global Discourse. Federica Caso is a PhD Candidate at the University of Queensland and board member of E-IR.