California Scholars for Academic Freedom

Letter in support of Turkish “Peace petition” signers

CALIFORNIA SCHOLARS FOR ACADEMIC

FREEDOM

Los Angeles, April 8, 2016

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu

Office of the Prime Minister

Başbakanlık 06573

Ankara, Turkey

Via facsimile +90 312 417 0476

Copy to:

• Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Türkiye Cumhuriyeti Cumhurbaşkanı (President of the Republic of

Turkey) Fax +90 312 525 58 31

#• İsmail Kahraman, Türkiye Büyük Millet Meclisi Başkanı (President of the Turkish National

Assembly) Fax +90 312 420 51 65

#• Bekir Bozdağ, Türkiye Cumhuriyeti Adalet Bakanı (Justice Minister of the Republic of

Turkey) Fax: +90 (0312) 419 33 70

• Yekta Saraç, Türkiye Yüksek Öğretim Kurulu (YÖK) Başkanı (President of the Turkish Higher

Education Council) Email: cohe@yok.gov.tr

• Serdar Kılıç, Turkish Ambassador to the United States

Email: embassy.washingtondc@mfa.gov.tr Fax:+1 202 612 67 44

#• John R. Bass, United States Ambassador to Turkey Fax: (90-312) 467-0019

e-mail: webmasterankara@state.gov

Dear Prime Minister Davutoğlu:

California Scholars for Academic Freedom,* an organization devoted to defending academic

freedom and representing more than one hundred and fifty faculty at universities throughout

California, wishes to express its concern for the second time over the disciplinary investigations,

detentions and criminal prosecutions that have been undertaken against scholars who signed a

petition for peace in the Kurdish regions of the country (“Peace Petition”). In our previous letter

on this matter, dated January 19, 2016, we raised concerns regarding the immediate aftermath of

a government-orchestrated campaign of intimidation following President Recep Tayyip

Erdoğan’s speech defining the signatories of the Peace Petition as “traitors,” and the memo

issued by the Higher Education Council’s (YÖK) calling for disciplinary investigations and

punitive measures against signatory faculty.

We now write in response to the alarming news about the treatment of signatory academics and

the worsening violations of academic freedom by the administrators of several Turkish

Universities and by the State. According to reputable sources, as of March 24, and since January

11, 2016, 531 academics have been subjected to administrative investigations; 5 were forced to

resign and 1 to retire; 29 have been suspended from their positions and 38 have already been

fired. Moreover, 158 academics have undergone criminal investigations, and 34 of them have

been temporarily detained. On March 14, then, professors Esra Mungan of Bogazici University,

Kıvanç Ersoy of Mimar Sinan Güzel Sanatlar University, and Muzaffer Kaya of Nişantaşı

University were arrested on charges of supporting terrorism, and are currently being detained

without bail for having held a public meeting on March 10 to inform the public of the

intimidations, unlawful investigations, and dismissals suffered by signatories of the Peace

Petition. A fourth organizer of that meeting, Prof. Meral Camcı (removed from office at İstanbul

Yeni Yüzyıl University) was also charged of supporting terrorism, but was able to avoid arrest

for she was out of the country. She was arrested upon her return to Turkey on March 31. Lastly,

a fifth academic and UK citizen, Prof. Chris Stephenson of Bilgi University, was arrested and

taken to Kumkapı Repatriation Center for holding a vigil outside the court in support of the three

academics arrested on March 14, and for carrying a Newroz (Kurdish New Year) invitation from

a lawful political party in the parliament–the People’s Democratic Party (HDP).1

In addition to the blatant disregard for the academic freedom and civil rights of the above

mentioned professors, we are deeply concerned with the Turkish government’s efforts to

“expand the definition of terrorism” to any speech, research, writing, opinion, organizing or

demonstration critical of government actions against minorities, as well as of the new

amendments proposed this week to the Higher Education Law, which would make it impossible

for any academic to do any work critical of government policies. According to the new draft of

the bill, any academic that gets “involved with separatist claims or terror activities or with

ideological or political actions, or supporting such actions” would be dismissed from

universities, and lose his or her title. In particular, crimes of political involvement would include

the drafting or signing of “petitions.” The draft bill proposes the punishment of job loss for

academics involved not only with political activities, but also with activities such as boycott,

occupation, slowdown strike, strike, and stopping public works that would disturb institutional

tranquility, peace and work atmosphere.

The magnitude of and escalation in violation of academic freedom, harassment, intimidation,

prosecution and repression to which academics in Turkey have been subjected as a consequence

of signing the Peace Petition is unlike anything we have witnessed as California Scholars for

Academic Freedom. We are gravely concerned that a country like Turkey, which has not only

made promises to protect democracy and human rights both domestically and internationally, but

has made great strides in implementing those principles, now attempts to crush not merely

academic freedoms, but the very right of citizens to criticize their government. Repressing

specifically the critical voices of so many academics by such blatantly unlawful means can only

1 (March, 25, 2016). Freedom Watch in Front of 2 Prisons for 3 Academics. Bianet.

http://bianet.org/english/freedom-of-expression/173358-freedom-watch-in-front-of-2-prisons-for-3-academics

(March 16, 2016). Turkey: Academics Jailed For Signing Petition. Human Rights Watch.

https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/03/16/turkey-academics-jailed-signing-petition

(March 16, 2016). British academic deported from Turkey over ‘terror propaganda’ claim. The Indedependent

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/british-academic-to-leave-turkey-after-25-years-overterror-

propaganda-claim-a6935121.html

(March 31, 2016). Update: Vacationing Turkish scholar arrested after her return. Science.

http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2016/03/update-vacationing-turkish-scholar-arrested-after-her-return

yield negative consequences for Turkish academia in particular, and freedom of speech in

general. The equation of dissenting views with terrorism, and the plans for expanding the

definition of terrorism to include dissemination of research findings, ideas, news, etc. that can be

associated with aiding the activities of terrorists are unacceptable developments that could cause

the incarceration of not only a great number of academics, but also journalists and NGO

advocates if the Turkish government does not put a stop to these developments.

The Turkish Constitution safeguards freedom of thought and opinion and specifically states that

no one shall “be blamed or accused on account of his thoughts and opinions” (Article 25). It also

states that everyone “has the right to express and disseminate his thoughts and opinion by

speech, in writing or in pictures or through other media, individually or collectively” (Article

26). Further, it protects academic freedom in Article 27: “Everyone has the right to study and

teach freely, explain, and disseminate science and arts and to carry out research in these fields.”

As a member state of the Council of Europe and a signatory of the European Convention for the

Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, Turkey is required to protect freedom

of thought, expression and assembly. Turkey is also a signatory to the Universal Declaration of

Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Final Act of the

Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), all of which protect the rights to

freedom of expression and association, which are at the heart of academic freedom. Therefore we

urge your government to take all necessary steps to abandon the course currently being pursued

and to return to earlier practices in line with ensuring that these rights are protected.2

We respectfully ask that your government take immediate steps to drop all charges against

Professors Mungan, Ersoy, and Kaya, and release them from detention. That it also drop all

charges against Professor Camcı, and ensure that all of the investigations – administrative and

criminal – against the signatory academics of the Peace Petition be terminated or reversed.

Lastly, we also ask that your government immediately drop consideration of any proposal to

amend the criminal laws to broaden the definition of terrorism to encompass the lawful and

protected activities of academics, journalists and NGO advocates, and refuse any amendments to

Higher Education Law that will stifle even further human rights, academic freedom, freedom of

expression and freedom of association in Turkey.

Thank you for your attention to this matter. We look forward to your positive response.

Yours sincerely,

California Scholars for Academic Freedom

Contacts:

Nancy Gallagher Claudio Fogu

University of California Santa Barbara University of California Santa Barbara

gallagher@history.ucsb.edu cfogu@frit.ucsb.edu

2 Tartanoğlu, S. (March 23, 2016). İntikam torbası açıldı. Cumhuriyet.

http://www.cumhuriyet.com.tr/haber/turkiye/503406/intikam_torbasi_acildi.html

**CALIFORNIA SCHOLARS FOR ACADEMIC FREEDOM is a group of well over 100

academics who teach in 20 California institutions. The group formed as a response to various

violations of academic freedom that were arising from both the post-9/11/2001 climate of civil

rights violations and the increasing attacks on progressive educators by neo-conservatives. Many

attacks have been aimed at scholars of Arab, Muslim or Middle Eastern descent or at scholars

researching and teaching about the Middle East, Arab and Muslim communities. Our goal of

protecting California Scholars based mainly in institutions of higher education has grown

broader in scope to include threats to academic freedom across the United States, and where

relevant, globally as well. We recognize that violations of academic freedom anywhere are

threats to academic freedom everywhere.

Further information on CS4AF: https://cascholars4academicfreedom.wordpress.com/author/cs4af/

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April 14, 2016 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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