Academics for Peace are on Trial in Turkey

The Istanbul Chief Prosecutor has indicted academics in Turkey on terrorism charges for signing a declaration. The academics are being charged with “propagating propaganda for a terrorist organization” and are facing 7.5 years of imprisonment.

The declaration, known as “Academics for Peace Declaration”, was a reaction toward the violent and repressive measures taken by the Turkish state to suppress the uprising in Kurdish towns. It was signed by more than 1,128 academics initially when it was first made public in a press conference in January 11, 2016. In the following week, the number of final signatories reached 2,212. The declaration called for the Turkish state to “abandon its deliberate massacre and deportation of Kurdish and other peoples in the region, […] to lift the curfew, punish those who are responsible for human rights violations, and compensate those citizens who have experienced material and psychological damage,” and also demanded “the government to prepare the conditions for negotiations and create a road map that would lead to a lasting peace which includes the demands of the Kurdish political movement.”

As Prof. Chomsky indicated, “These are entirely reasonable appeals, quite standard in free societies, and very natural and praiseworthy on the part of concerned citizens.  Those who feel that the petition misrepresents facts have ample opportunity to respond in a civilized manner.  There is nothing in the petition that supports terrorism in the slightest way.“

However Turkey is not a free society, quite the contrary, it is drifting towards fascism, especially after the coup d’état attempt of July 15, 2016. Actually, long before the attempt, after losing the majority in general elections on June 7, 2015, the core members of the ruling party AKP and the Turkish state, under the authoritarian rule of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, decided to end the “Peace Process” that was taking place in the form of negotiations between the jailed leader of Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), Abdullah Öcalan, and the higher officials of the state security apparatus. The peace process collapsed after President Erdoğan pursued a vile political plan of consolidating his power by escalating the war against the Kurdish movement and appealing for ultra-nationalist sentiments in the Turkish society, in order to pave the way to an all-powerful presidential system.

The collapse of the peace process cannot be solely attributed to the political ambitions of Erdogan; most elements of the military-bureaucratic establishment of Turkey were also thrilled with the developments in the Kurdish front, not only in Turkey, but also in a wider region where Kurds live, including Rojava, a mostly Kurdish region in Northern Syria where Kurds enjoy autonomy in a self-declared federative system. Turkish state establishment assessed this development as a “matter of survival”, because they thought that the political and military gains of Syrian Kurds may aspire the political desires of the Kurds in Turkey.

Presidential elections that were held on August 10, 2014 in order to elect the 12th President of Turkey resulted in the election of Incumbent Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan outright with a simple majority of the vote in the first round. After the presidential elections, the coup d’état attempt of July 15, 2016, allegedly organized by a religious sect that used to be Erdoğan’s partner and apparatus in police and judiciary system, gave the “blessing of the god” to Erdoğan to liquidate his old-partner-turned-foe and establish his one-man-rule in which all checks and balances that used to exist in Turkey’s political system are destroyed, and the principle of separation of powers and rule of law is dumped into the dustbin of history. The constitutional referendum which was held on April 16, 2017, under a state of emergency that was declared following a failed military coup attempt in July 2016, concentrated all power in the hands of the President, effectively dismantling the separation of powers and taking legislative authority away from the Parliament.

The never-ending state of emergency declared after the failed coup has been extended for the fifth time and has become the norm. The state of emergency enabled the clique led by Erdogan to rule by governmental decrees, which were conveniently used to suppress all dissent in Turkey by mass arrests, purges and confiscations.  In a recent report made public on November 30, 2017, The Human Rights Association of Turkey gave the balance sheet of the repressive measures as follows: Up to date, 26 decrees were issued; 111,588 public servants were discharged; 169,013 people were detained out of which 50,510 were arrested pending trial; 162 press outlets have been shut down and 174 journalist are still in jail; and 669 companies were seized by the state and 1412 NGOs and 139 foundations were shut down.

Up to date, 487 signers of the Academics for Peace declaration have lost their academic posts, 380 of them by governmental decrees and the rest were either dismissed or forced to resign or retire. Now they are charged by Istanbul Public Chief Prosecutor with “propaganda for a terrorist organization” and are facing 7.5 years of imprisonment, according to the Turkish Anti-Terror Act – Article 7/2, which reads: “Any person making propaganda for a terrorist organisation shall be punished with imprisonment from one to five years. If this crime is committed through means of mass media, the penalty shall be aggravated by one half.” If all first signatories get a verdict, the number will exceed a thousand, a prospect that will further aggravate the grim human rights violations in Turkey.

They are asking for international solidarity from all academics and dissidents all over the world concerned about peace and freedom of speech. Your support and solidarity can make a change in the dreadful conditions in Turkey. You can contribute to this campaign by:

  1. Visiting their web site ( and sending messages of solidarity
  2. Contributing financially to the fundraising campaign for the dismissed academics to carry out their academic activities
  3. Disseminating their appeal for solidarity and academic boycott for Turkey among the academic communities and organizations you are involved
  4. Daring to come to Turkey to demonstrate your solidarity by attending their trials.

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