Solidarity with Turkey’s universities and academics under threat

The ENTITLE (European Network of Political Ecology) collective is deeply concerned about recent infringements of academic freedom in Turkey and repudiates the purge of Turkey’s universities. We are in solidarity with threatened institutions, academics and staff and call for the respect of institutional autonomy, freedom of speech and human rights.

Source: James Fryer/timeshighereducation.com.
Source: James Fryer/timeshighereducation.com.

In the aftermath of the military coup attempt on 15 July, an ongoing governmental purge is sweeping Turkey’s state institutions, including the education system in general and higher education in particular: all 1,577 deans of public and private universities in Turkey were asked to resign for a re-evaluation; 15,200 education ministry officials and 21,000 private school teachers have been suspended from their jobs; academics without official work-related permits from the university are subject to a travel ban of unspecified duration, while a majority of those on sabbatical leave abroad were asked to return to Turkey. On 28 July, the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TUBITAK) also announced the suspension of Masters and PhD scholarship payments.

The declaration of a state of emergency for at least three months, followed by the temporary suspension of the European Convention on Human Rights raises special concerns over “freedom of expression and protection against arbitrary detention and torture” of those facing persecution, as denounced by International Amnesty.

Similar concerns about the restriction of academic freedom were raised after the prosecution of over 2,000 scholars who signed a petition released in January 2016 by Academics for Peace, which called for peace and for ending military interventions, especially in cities of  Southeast Turkey with a large Kurdish population. Restrictive measures included detentions, investigations for terrorism, suspensions and dismissals.

A recently published report on the violations of academic rights in Turkey, prepared by the International Working Group on Academic Liberty and Freedom of Research in Turkey (GIT Turkey), and covering the period between May 2013 – May 2015, provides a more detailed and long-term view of the purge of academics, which throughout history has accompanied political reform initiatives in Turkey.

While we position ourselves against any military coup and any undemocratic intervention, we also deeply share statements of support by academic networks calling on the political authorities in Turkey to take all possible steps to guarantee that academics are allowed to continue their scholarly work without interference. More than ever Turkey needs freedom of speech and public and open debate, which are essential for functionung democracies. The principles of academic freedom for both scholars and students, free expression and freedom of association must be respected.

We also endorse the calls of Scholars at Risk (a network, which works to protect scholars suffering grave threats to their lives, liberty and well-being) for generalized international solidarity, including where necessary by offering to host dismissed, displaced or otherwise threatened scholars and students from Turkey.

 

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