Erdogan’s Witch Hunt Against Academic Opponents

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A petition  titled “We will not be a party to this crime”, calling on PM Erdogan and the Turkish government to stop the unlawful curfews in Kurdish cities that have caused many civilian deaths, was signed by 1128 Turkish scholars and almost 400 world-renowned intellectuals, including David Harvey, Noam Chomsky, Tariq Ali, and Etienne Balibar.

As soon as the petition was declared in press conferences simultaneously held in Istanbul and Ankara, president Erdogan publicly denounced the signatories and accused them of being “traitors”, “dishonored”, “so-called intellectuals”, and called on the authorities to take action: “Certain institutions of the state will do whatever is needed in order not to leave those so-called academics, ignorant people untouched.” And then the witch hunt had begun.

Taking President Erdogan’s word as a command, YÖK (Higher Education Council) immediately ordered every rectorate to investigate the academicians who signed the petition, which was followed by dozens of layoffs and enquiries. Some professors were threatened and had to resign or flee the city while others expressed their worries due to death threats they have been receiving. District attorneys also started formal investigations and issued warrants for arrest. Nineteen scholars in Kocaeli were detained in their homes in dawn raids, and released after bearing their testimonies. One Istanbul prosecutor launched an investigation against all 1128 signatories. If convicted, academicians face one to five years jail time.

First investigation was announced by Abdullah Gul University, bearing the name of one AKP founder and former president of Turkey

First investigation was announced by Abdullah Gul University, bearing the name of one AKP founder and former president of Turkey

Several AKP officials and President Erdogan himself have been continually targeting the academicians while pro-government daily Yeni Akit spared a full page for the list of signatories. Sedat Peker, an organized crime boss, published a note on his website, threatening to “spill their blood and take a shower in it”. In some universities, nationalist students known as “grey wolves” left threatening notes and marked the doors of the professors with red crosses, a popular intimidation method known to be used by nationalists for decades.

‘Grey Wolves’ marked the office doors of signatories and left threat notes in Gazi University

‘Grey Wolves’ marked the office doors of signatories and left threat notes in Gazi University

The signatories are accused of supporting terrorists due to their being critical against the state but not PKK. Minister of Justice Bekir Bozdağ took it one step further, and claimed that the petition text was prepared by no one but by PKK itself. In their questionings, academicians were accused of receiving instructions from PKK co-leader Bese Hozat.

Erdogan ‘warned’ the signatory Noam Chomsky not to be fooled by others and invited him to eastern Turkey to see the situation himself. Chomsky not only refused the invitation but also accused Erdogan of supporting Islamist radicals while oppressing those who condemn his crimes against Kurds. Another signatory Judith Butler also commented on the issue, urging Erdogan to explain to the world why they broke the peace talks they had been carrying out with Kurds.

Chomsky’s response to Erdogan’s invitation

Chomsky’s response to Erdogan’s invitation

As a response to the disproportional measures and impulses waged by the government, many national and international institutions and individuals have started petitions and sent condemnation mail to the Turkish authorities.

Supporters include University and Collage Union of UK – read here

Pen International – read here

Middle East Studies Association – read here

Authors for Peace – read here

Actors for Peace – read here

A petition by university students has hit over 30.000 signatures while some students left solidarity notes on the office doors of the prosecuted professors.

Students left support notes for the detained professors in Kocaeli University

Students left support notes for the detained professors in Kocaeli University

 

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Jennifer Baker is the founder and editor of Revolution News - Contact us with inquiries, tips, corrections at - revnewsmedia@gmail.com