The “Academics for Peace Initiative” has been facing a series of government investigations and threats after publishing their declaration on January 10 entitled “We Won’t Be Partners in This Crime!”
The Declaration collected the signatures of 1128 Turkish and International academics from 89 universities and addressed the Turkish Republic stating “you have condemned many of your own citizens in Sur, Silvan, Nusaybin, Silopi, Cizre and the surrounding regions to hunger and thirst as a result of the weeks-long curfews” and “violated their rights to life, freedom and security.”
The Declaration, which included the signatures of internationally known academics Noam Chomsky, Judith Butler, Etienne Balibar and David Harvey, called on the government to “immediately halt its politics of division and the massacre against the people and especially the Kurdish people of the region” and “prepare conditions for a negotiation that will lead to a sustainable peace with the input of Kurdish political leaders.”
The curfews and violence discussed in the declaration refer to the violent clashes ongoing in Turkey’s East since the peace process broke down in July. The clashes have been primarily between Turkish forces and the armed members of the outlawed Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK), claiming many civilian lives in the process.
Shortly after the release of the declaration, the “Academics for Peace” Group received immediate condemnation from the government and many government-linked media outlets.
Responding to the academic declaration, president Erdoğan stated “They say the rights of citizens are being violated. Yes, because of terrorist operations the rights and freedoms of millions of our citizens in the region are being violated. And the violators are the terrorists.”
Referring to the academics as “counterfeit intellectuals,” the President continued, “I’ll leave aside those academics whose names belong to us but whose mindset is completely foreign to us. I have an offer for the foreigner academics. Let them come to Turkey. Let them see from A to Z what is happening in every region, we are fully ready to explain it all to them.”
President Erdoğan concluded with a strong condemnation, claiming that “You either stand with the state or you stand on the side of the terrorist organization.”
Days after the release of the declaration, the Istanbul Republic Attorney General launched an investigation on those academics that signed the declaration as potentially guilty of Article 301 of the Turkish Penal code. Alongside Article 301- which deals with the crimes of “overtly degrading the Turkish Republic, Parliament, Government, and Justice Institutions”- Article 7 of the Anti-terrorist Law was invoked, for the crime of “spreading terrorist propaganda.”
On January 15, a wide-scale police operation across several provinces brought 28 of the academics who signed the declaration into custody, some of whom were detained from their homes. Most were released the same day after giving statements.
A number of the academics have also faced repercussions in their professional lives, with several being fired from their positions and many facing disciplinary action and administration investigations conducted by their associated universities.
In addition to official investigations and condemnations, the Group has also faced a series of threats and intimidations. At several universities in the provinces of Ankara, Konya, Kocaeli and Kırrıkale, the doors of professors who signed the declaration were marked with condemning messages such as “We don’t want Betül Yarar, the PKK supporter, at our University!”
The infamous organized crime leader Sedat Peker also released a chilling threat from his website aimed at the “Academics for Peace” vowing that “we will bleed you and take a shower in your flowing blood.”
Despite the barrage of threats and investigations targeting the “Academics for Peace” Group, the Group has also received an outpouring of support from Student Groups, Feminist Groups, Film, Journalism, and Theatre Gilds, Alevi Religious Groups, and a host of International Academics. At Kocaeli University, students responded to the hate messages on their professor’s door with a message of support: “OUR PROFESSOR YÜCEL IS NOT ALONE.”