Middle East Studies Association (MESA) of North America and its Committee on Academic Freedom addressed Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu in a letter and expressed concern over investigations against scholars who signed a petition for peace in the Southeast region of the country.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has strongly slammed a petition signed by more than 1,000 local and international academics - including foreign scholars like Noam Chomsky, David Harway and Immanuel Wallerstein - titled “We will not be a part of this crime” which called on Ankara to end the “massacre and slaughter.”
“YÖK officials are reportedly treating this petition as pro-PKK ‘terrorist propaganda'” the statement signed by MESA President Beth Baron slammed, adding that these acts “represent a violation of academic freedom and are consistent with broader efforts on the part of the state to punish critics of state policies”.
MESA teaching on the Middle East and North Africa underlined, investigating the signatories after Erdoğan criticized the campaign in a public address, calling the signatories ‘traitors' "suggests that YÖK's actions are inappropriately politicized”.
Within a day of Erdoğan's speech, several academics were reportedly taken under investigation and some of them were detained for being a signatory of the petition. Assistant Professor Hülya Doğan at Bartın University, Associate Professor Latife Akyüz suspended by Düzce University administration, Professor Bülent Tanju who was demanded to resign after order of the rector of Abdullah Gül University in Kayseri were amongst these scholars.
Some of the possible charges were for “inflaming hatred and hostility among peoples” and “denigration of the Turkish nation”.
"A strike at ability to conduct research"
“President Erdoğan suggests that the petition calls for foreigners to intervene to correct the situation in Turkey. In fact, the petition called for national and international independent observers to monitor the situation in the Kurdish region” the statement added.
MESA commission also underlined that “to investigate and criminalize a petition in which scholars call for independent observers to monitor areas under siege and curfew where civilian deaths have been reported is to strike at the heart of the academic enterprise—the ability to conduct independent research.”
Turkey required to protect freedom of thought
Turkey's membership to of the Council of Europe and its signatory of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as well as the Final Act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) were reiterated in the statement, urging the country's responsibility to “protect freedom of thought, expression and assembly.”
“These rights are also enshrined in articles 25-27 of the Turkish Constitution” the statement stressed, calling on Turkey to address concern on human rights by using education as a step.
The acts "cast a long shadow over the democratic credentials of your government” according to MESA Commission.
The text marked in fact “MESA's twentieth letter calling upon the government to protect academic freedom in Turkey”.
The letter was also sent to President Erdoğan, President of the Turkish National Assembly İsmail Kahraman, Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ, several university rectors as well as international rights organizations' chiefs, on the CC line.