Academics support colleagues under probe in Turkey
DHA PhotoHundreds of Turkish academics have expressed solidarity with their colleagues suspected of terrorism crimes after signing a petition to call for an end to ongoing violence in southeastern Turkey in a statement sent to the Hürriyet Daily News.
“Democracy cannot exist without freedom of expression,” said the statement signed by 610 academics from various universities including some in the United States, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Austria and Turkey.
“We, the undersigned academics, believe that freedom of expression is the core element of academic life... we think that the reaction of the government and the Higher Education Council [YÖK] toward the petition entitled ‘We shall not be a party to this crime’ signed by over 1,000 academics is wrong and disturbing,” the statement said.
The statement came amid a criminal complaint against a group of people, including 15 academics out of a total of 1,228 who signed the petition to call for peace, as well as overt death threats by ultranationalist mafia boss Sedat Peker that directly targeted the academics. The scholars also demanded state protection as they said “our lives are in danger” in a criminal complaint filed with the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office.
“We will let your blood flow in streams and take a shower in your blood,” Peker, a well-known convicted criminal, said in a message posted on his personal website on Jan. 13. The message titled as “The So-Called Intellectuals, The Bells Will Toll for You First” was posted just a day after President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan called more than 1,000 Turkish and international academics as “poor excuses for intellectuals.”
The statement from the 610 also said public debate and criticism were the basic tenets of democracy, whereas silencing and persecuting dissent were the hallmarks of authoritarianism.
“The attempt to punish the academics who express their opinions regarding the burning problems which are currently affecting the country constitutes a blow to academic freedom. Social progress is bound to be impeded by such an attack,” it added.