CS4AF Press Release expresses its alarm over the deteriorating situation in Turkey for university governance, academics and students
CALIFORNIA SCHOLARS FOR ACADEMIC FREEDOM
November 6, 2016
URGENT: FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
California Scholars for Academic Freedom expresses its alarm over the deteriorating situation in Turkey for university governance, academics and students.
The past week has witnessed the issuance of two emergency decrees that increasingly imperil academic personnel and the autonomy of universities. The first decree dismissed over 1200 academics from public universities across the country. The second ended the last remaining modicum of self-governance for public universities, transferring the authority to appoint university presidents (or rectors, as they are known in Turkey) to the executive branch. In addition, this week has also witnessed the issuing of detention warrants against 137 academics on allegations that amount to little more than guilt-by-association, tying them to a community that the government holds responsible for the failed coup attempt on July 15th of this year. Others targeted for arrest this week include elected members of parliament from the opposition party the HDP, continuing sweep arrests of municipal and regional elected officials from Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeastern provinces (where now over 28 provinces are under administrative government with their elected officials in prison) and the arrest of the editor-in-chief and twelve columnists and staff members of one of the oldest opposition newspapers in the country, Cumhuriyet.
While we recognize that the attempted coup represented a threat to Turkish national security, and that the government must take legitimate precautions in the aftermath of that violence, mass firings of university faculty and staff and centralized government control over university governance have no rational relationship to such legitimate measures. Similarly, national security threats emanating from the violent spillover of the Syrian conflict or the insurgency in the southeast of the country cannot justify either the measures taken against universities and academic personnel or the repression of independent media and political opposition.
Taken together, the mass arrests and purges of academics, journalists and elected officials from opposition parties mark a grim new turn in the assault on academic freedom, freedom of speech and association and political and civil rights in Turkey. Under the state of emergency, the government has decimated judicial independence, abrogated the rule of law, targeted for detention and arrest the majority of independent journalists, and eliminated the autonomy of universities from government control. Of the tens of thousands of academics and teachers dismissed or suspended from their positions, a significant number are known leftists, government critics and individuals who have been outspoken on Kurdish rights. For instance, 24 of the 1267 academics dismissed by decree on October 29th were signatories of the Peace Petition launched by the Academics for Peace Initiative, a group that has no connection to the community the government accuses of having supported the failed coup. The evidence of a mounting campaign to target and silence political opposition of all forms threatens any possibility of meaningful academic freedom or freedom of thought in the country.
We condemn the suspension of basic civil liberties and the rights to political and intellectual expression and academic freedom that have resulted from the actions taken by the Turkish government under the state of emergency. The repressive actions by the Turkish state constitute violations of international human rights obligations and have had a chilling effect on the most basic prerequisites of academic freedom, including freedom of speech. We write to express our serious concern that these measures have also contributed to a frightening degree of instability and escalating ethnic, political and religious polarization in Turkey. We issue an urgent call for solidarity with Turkish academic personnel and students who are directly threatened by the actions of the Turkish government.
Associate Professor, Department of French and Italian
University of California, Santa Barbara
Research Professor and Professor Emerita, Departments of Anthropology and Gender Studies
University of California, Los Angeles
Kamala Visweswaran, Professor of Ethnic Studies
University of California, San Diego
** CALIFORNIA SCHOLARS FOR ACADEMIC FREEDOM (cs4af) is a group of scholars who defend academic freedom, the right of shared governance, and the First Amendment rights of faculty and students in the academy and beyond. We recognize that violations of academic freedom anywhere are threats to academic freedom everywhere. California Scholars for Academic Freedom investigates legislative and administrative infringements on freedom of speech and assembly, and it raises the consciousness of politicians, university regents and administrators, faculty, students and the public at large through open letters, press releases, petitions, statements, and articles.
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