Imprisoning Scholars Aims at Imprisoning Scholarly Thinking

On January 10, 2016, 1,128 academics published a declaration entitled "We will not be party to this crime" protesting against severe human rights violations during the curfews in Southeastern Turkey— the Kurdish populated region. After the Turkish government accused the peace defenders in academia of ‘being part of terrorist propaganda’, hundreds of scholars have been dismissed from their universities. Meanwhile, with the participation of other scholars, the number of academics for peace who have signed the declaration has reached 2,212 in Turkey alone.

Since December 5th, 2017, scholars have been prosecuted under charges of “propaganda for a terrorist organization”. The Penal Courts continue to hand out sentences against scholars and human rights defenders until today. As Bianet reports: “As of January 24, 2019, 450 academics have stood trial since December 5, 2017. 83 of these academics were sentenced to 1 year and 3 months in prison; 3 academics to 1 year and 6 months in prison; one academic to 2 years and 3 months in prison; one academic has been sentenced to 2 years and 6 months in prison; one academic has been sentenced to 2 years and 1 month in prison; and one academic has been sentenced to 3 years in prison.”

Off-University, as an initiative strengthening freedom of speech in academia, supports our colleagues’ on-going fight for freedom and peace in Turkey. The defence of human rights must not be prosecuted. The sentences meted out by the courts are clearly arbitrary, as scholars who have signed the same petition received different penalties. The verdict of three years meeted out to a scholar on January 24th is an example for this as the court did not cite any aggravating circumstances. Moreover, imprisoning scholars has the aim of imprisoning scholarly thinking. Critical thinking at Turkish universities and interventions by scholars in the public sphere of Turkey are systematically prevented. Therefore, these convictions constitute not only a severe political persecution of academics, they also impede sound academic life, knowledge production, and the future development of higher education in Turkey.

We repeat our solidarity with the persecuted colleagues.

For more information about the prosecutions of the Academics for Peace initiative:

For reading more about the curfews of 2015 and 2016 in Southeast Turkey :