The Rise of Authoritarianism and Suppression of Academic Freedoms in Turkey: the Case of Academics for Peace

tuesday // 01.08 // 8 pm

In January 2016, 2,212 academics working in or researching on Turkey signed a declaration calling on the Turkish government to end the war in the Kurdish region, seek a peaceful resolution of the decades-long Kurdish question, and allow international observers to monitor the situation in Kurdish towns and cities destroyed by security forces. Since then, the signatories, who came to be known as Academics for Peace, have been subjected to vindictive and punitive attacks ordered by the president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and implemented through joint effort by the government and the higher education establishment.

The Academics for Peace have been accused with treason for calling on the Turkish government to end violence against its own citizens. Under instructions from the president, the government, the security establishment, the Higher Education Council and the university rectors have all joined forces to exact ‘a heavy price’ on Academics for Peace. The lynching campaign is still ongoing and has so far led to multiple waves of criminal and administrative investigations, detentions, dismissals, passport revocations and travel bans, denial of pension rights, and exclusion from the labour market through blacklisting of national insurance numbers.

Following the botched coup of July 2016 and the state of emergency in its wake, under the pretext of purging the loyalists of Fethullah Gülen movement, an ex-partner of the AKP regime that had also been complicit in the violations of academic freedoms and standards in Turkey, politically motivated attacks on academia and the whole public service sector in Turkey reached an unprecedented scale. As of 30 April 2017, academic dismissals reached a staggering level at 5,295. This state of affairs demonstrates that the Turkish higher education system is used by the government and its political allies as a locus of patronage exchange and score settlement, disguised under the veil of academic endeavor. The lynching campaign against Academics for Peace is in serious violation of the international standards of autonomy, academic freedom and doctrine-free knowledge production in higher education.

In this presentation, several people from academics for peace group will discuss the current situation of academic freedoms and violation of academic rights in Turkey with a focus on rising authoritarianism.