Dear Prime Minister Yıldırım:
We are writing to express our gravest concern over the recent treatment
of our colleagues in academia in Turkey. In the wake of the coup
attempt of July 15, 2016, 2,346 academics have been fired, while an even
larger number is facing suspension and disciplinary investigation.
We acknowledge the serious threat the military coup attempt posed to
national security and the personal safety of your President. We also
recognize that the times we live in see an ominous surge in terrorist
attacks globally. Yet the suspension of constitutional rights and legal
procedures under the State of Emergency in the name of anti-terrorism
forms a serious threat to Turkey, too. It undermines Turkey’s
functioning as a state based on the rule of law and inspired by
principles of democracy and justice and faith in formal institutions.
The State of Emergency has made it possible to silence and eliminate
critics and political opponents, even though they have no ties to the
Gülen community that is being held responsible for the coup attempt.
Among those fired in the wake of the coup are 41 “Peace Academics,” who
signed a petition [“We Will Not Be a Party to this Crime,” January 2016]
demanding the return to peace negotiations between the Turkish state and
representatives of the Kurdish political organizations in Turkey. This
spate of dismissals follows upon months of layoffs, prosecution,
investigations, and intimidation targeting 1128 of the signatories, who
are being accused by the government of treason and supporting terrorism.
Ironically, it was your own party that had initiated the peace process
and declared its intention to terminate this 30-year long conflict,
which has claimed too many lives on both sides. We feel urged to remind
you that the Peace Academics merely have exercised their freedom of
speech. More so, they have taken seriously their ethical obligation as
scholars to actively participate in a debate so vital for Turkey’s
welfare. We fear that the purge of these scholars only forecloses a
civil means of resolving the existing conflict. We will closely follow
the upcoming court case involving the four academics and leaders of the
Peace Campaign, who are charged with 7,5 years in prison, after having
spent several weeks in detention last spring already.
More structurally, we are alarmed by the heavy hand the Turkish Higher
Education Council (YÖK) has in university governance. In the aftermath
of the coup attempt, 1577 university deans at private and public
institutions as well as four rectors have been forced to resign from
their positions, though allegedly a substantial number of them are now
being reinstated. Moreover, the Turkish Higher Education Council
recently obtained the authority to investigate, suspend, and fire
academic personnel at private and public higher education institutions,
yet the State of Emergency renders legal means to contest decisions
largely unavailable to those affected.
The ongoing developments add to a decline in freedom of expression for
intellectuals and journalists, as reflected by Turkey’s ranking 151 out
of 180 countries in the Reporters without Borders’ World Press Freedom
Index. In 2006, our association held its bi-annual conference in
Istanbul, which was hosted by Bilgi University. Now, exactly ten years
later, we address you with a set of concerns that in 2006 would have
seemed to belong to Turkey’s past, rather than the country’s future. We
do so as an organization that has looked forward to Turkey becoming a
leader in the academic world as well as in democracy and human rights.
The ongoing developments in Turkey are a blow to our hopes for Turkey
and we call upon you and your government to bring them to an end
Gilbert B. Rodman
Chair, Association for Cultural Studies (ACS)
on behalf of the ACS Board
*The letter has been sent to Prime Minister Yıldırım by the Chair of Association for Cultural Studies Gil Rodman.