1128 professors, researchers and scholars both Turkish and Kurdish from 89 university, supported by relevant global actors like Noam Chomsky, Immanuel Wallerstein and Etienne Balibar, signed a petition “We are not a part in this crime”, a call for the Turkish government to halt the military operations in the Kurdish south-eastern regions of Turkey, where armed conflict, erupted again during summer 2015, has already caused hundreds of dead people both among the fighters and the population.
The call was shared during a joint press conference in Istanbul and Ankara, during which it was demanded to stop the violence perpetrated in many southeastern cities, which have been deprived of food, water and electricity for weeks and have been submitted to sever bombings. The priority is to restore the process of peace that was started in 2012 and finished right after the elections last June, when the Kurdish party HDP got an historical record entering the Parliament for the first time.
The answer from the government, however, has been on a very different level. Erdoğan reacted with his usual toughness and stigmatised the “pseudo-scholars” as “traitors”, accusing them of carrying out a propaganda in favour of PKK. The day after the conference the High Council for Education (YÖK) -the organ that monitors and regulates the universities in the country- has issued a press release where it is stated that “appropriate measures will be taken against the signatories, according to the current regulatory framework”.
An explicit and worrying condemnation, if one considers that just last November an amendment to the current law has given YÖK the power to shut down universities in case the administrators run activities that could be considered threatening to the integrity of the Turkish state. Yet another explanation of the reaction of Heads and Academic Senates of the involved universities, where the working activity of the signatories has been suspended, while some of them were already fired.
The judicial authority moved promptly with the beginning of investigations against the signatories and confirmed many detentions in the following 48 hours, with charges that vary from “insult to the State, the government and the presidency of the republic” to “propaganda and support to terrorism”. There is an increasing feeling that justice acts on the direct mandate of president Erdoğan and that there is a progressive erosion of the republic power separation.Moreover and most worryingly a well-known personality in Turkish organised crime, Sedat Peker, declared that signatories should “thank police and the military that they tried to discredit”. “We will make your blood flow, in such a copious way that one could take a shower out of it”, declared later Peker. In the meanwhile many have been the initiatives to support the academics: student and cultural organisations have been showing their support and solidarity towards the petitioners, underlining the importance of never remaining silent when such a tough conflict is faced.
Through Twitter, the American embassy in Ankara has publicly expressed their preoccupation for the current repression of dissent, with a statement that calls on Turkey to not confuse dissent with betrayal and condemnation of violence with support to terrorism. Also the Council of Europe, through its Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland, has shown worry for the situation, which fuels violence instead of seeking for a peaceful conflict resolution.
Many are also the initiatives against the call for peace. According to some newspapers favourable to the government, a second petition condemning the actions of PKK in Turkey and called “Academics against Terrorism” would have already gathered more than 5.000 signatures in a few days. Many journalists as well, among whom columnist Mahmut Övür, have expressed their reprimand towards the signatories of the peace initiative, accusing them of having been blind towards the violences that PKK inflicts on the Kurdish population as well.
For more information read the European Lawyers report Massive Human Rights Violations in Diyarbakir