Turkish academic faces jail for ‘terror propaganda’ over exam question on PKK leader
Mesut Hasan Benli – ANKARAAn academic at Ankara University’s Faculty of Political Science faces seven years in jail for “terror propaganda” over an exam question asking students to compare two writings by Abdullah Öcalan the jailed leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
In the final exam of his course titled “Political life and institutions in Turkey,” Assistant Professor Doctor Reşat Barış Ünlü asked students to compare a 1978 leaflet by Öcalan with a more recent piece from 2012 in terms of its implications for Turkey’s Kurdish question.
“Compare Abdullah Öcalan’s 1978 leaflet ‘The Manifesto of the Path of the Kurdistan Revolution’ with his 2012 piece entitled ‘Democratic Modernity as the Construction of Local System in the Middle East’ with regard to their stances on concepts and phenomena such as colonialism, the nation-state, revolutionary violence and democracy,” Ünlü asked in the question.
He asked his students to consider this comparison in terms of global and local changes since 1978, as well as transformations undergone by the Kurdish movement and in Kurdish society.
However, the indictment against Ünlü claims his question was an attempt to “legitimize” Öcalan’s ideas and amounted to “terror propaganda.”
Posing a question about Öcalan aimed at “legitimizing his opinions and imprinting on minds that he is a political leader,” the indictment said, adding that this was both “terror propaganda and a compliment to the head of the illegal organization who is serving a life sentence.”
The dean’s office at Ankara University’s prestigious Political Science Faculty has sent its academic judgment to the court, stressing the importance of academic autonomy and freedom of expression.
The office reportedly reminded the court that academics focusing on the issue had used Öcalan’s writings numerous times.
The prosecutor in the case is demanding seven years in jail for Ünlü, whose trial will be held at Ankara’s Second Criminal Court for Serious Crimes on Feb. 3.