In the face of rising authoritarianism and right-wing populism, academic freedom is under severe threat in contemporary Turkey. Governmental repression on academics became all too apparent when the Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, instigated a campaign of persecution against academics – Academics for Peace (BAK) – who signed a peace petition in January 2016. The petition, which called on the Turkish government to bring a halt to the destruction and civilian killings being carried out in Kurdish cities and towns, was signed by more than 2000 academics.

As of 2017, more than 700 BAK academics have been subject to dismissal, disciplinary actions, criminal prosecution, or even detention. The repression has escalated beyond BAK academics in the aftermath of the failed military coup in July 2016, with thousands of academics being fired, or forced to resign, and hundreds being legally detained. More than 20 universities have been closed, and their students forced to find alternative places. In addition, since January 2016, hundreds of academics and scholars have been displaced, either forced to leave Turkey or choosing it as the only viable option.
This half-day conference will address the current threats to academic freedom in Turkey, in the context of the current global political climate. We aim to start an urgent conversation about academic freedom and freedom of speech, increasingly stifled due to neoliberalism, authoritarianism, and the so-called “war on terror” in many parts of the world, from the US to India, Latin America to Egypt. We invite the university community, journalists, activists, politicians, and all concerned individuals to join us in this effort to defend academic freedom and freedom of speech and think about ways to organise solidarity to support scholars and journalists at risk. 


Panel I – 12:30 – 14:30.                               Academic Freedom, Authoritarianism and Turkey

Chair: Noémi Levy-Aksu, Boğaziçi University/Birkbeck College

Étienne Balibar, Emeritus Professor at Paris X Nanterre and Anniversary Chair of Modern European Philosophy at Kingston University London
Naif Bezwan, dismissed Lecturer from Mardin Artuklu University
Nilgün Toker Kılınç, dismissed Professor from Aegean University (via Skype)
Break – 14:30-14:45

Panel II – 14:45-17:00
Round Table Discussion: Building Solidarity with Academics in Turkey
Chair: Janroj Yilmaz Keles, Middlesex University

Jean Lambert, MEP, Green Party  
Rop Copeland, Policy Officer, UCU

Caroline Stockford, Chair of the Translation, Linguistic Rights and Writers in Prison Committee, Wales PEN Cymru
Maria Chichtchenkova, Protection Coordinator for Europe and Central Asia, Front Line Defenders
This event is organised by BAK-UK (Academics for Peace, United Kingdom) with the support of Birkbeck School of Law.
For more information go to the Facebook event:

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Urgent Call for Xerabê Bava by Academics for Peace- Germany & Academics for Peace- UK

As Turkey’s constitutional referendum is approaching, we are, once again, witnessing an intensification of state violence in the Kurdish provinces of Turkey. For more than a week, there has been no communication with the people of Xerabê Bava (Koruköy), a village in Mardin-Nusaybin. The village is under round-the-clock military curfew and there have been claims that villagers are being tortured and executed. Visitors, including journalists, MPs and human rights observers were denied entry to the village. 
We are concerned that what is going on in Xerabê Bava might be a harbinger of approaching larger scale state violence against the Kurdish population and other minority populations in Turkey. Since the violence exercised on Kurdish population has become a strategy for the government in order to consolidate a nationalistic
support for the referendum, it is crucial to raise an urgent reaction to this violence at its very beginning. 

We, therefore, urge international human rights organizations, journalists, and peace coalitions to pay attention to Xerabê Bava and take the necessary steps to investigate the allegations of rights violations in the village.

Academics for Peace- Germany

Academics for Peace- UK

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Academic For Peace Initiative (BAK) seeks international solidarity 

In the last seven months, following the failed coup attempt, nearly 100,000 civil servants have been removed from their posts in Turkey. This includes teachers, police officers, soldiers, academics and lawyers. Among these there have been many academics known for being signatories to the [“We will not be a party to this crime”] peace petition. The government previously accused the signatories of being members of terrorist organizations or groups seen as a threat to national security for merely signing the petition. This time the same academics are being removed from their positions on the basis of so-called special decrees… The government and university administrators have taken away jobs and rights (such as pension rights) without official or judicial justification.

When these academics have demanded their rights, they’ve been mistreatd by the police. Recently, academics have decided to not leave their offices and universities. University administrators have, however, at times called upon police forces to either prevent them from entering their universities or to stop their peaceful demonstrations on campus.

Among these academics, there is a famous music maestro, a leading neuropsychologist (aged 82), a well-known constitutional law professor and a lecturer who was imprisoned for signing a petition denouncing Turkey’s conflict with Kurdish rebels.

But their slogan became “We will not leave our universities.” Sacked professors began delivering lectures as part of a “Street Academy” outside university buildings. “Everywhere is the Academy,” they say. Other symbolic protests have been carried out by students, academics, and opposition MPs in the capital, Ankara, and in Istanbul. In some cases, academics laid their gowns on the ground in protest against the police blockades preventing them from entering universities.

Now we are asking you to support this growing resistance led by effected academics. If you can write a statement, at least one paragraph long, of your views on this situation, we can have your statement read publicly in the meetings of our colleagues. Short videos are also welcome. We prefer your message directly address these academics engaged in resistance, but feel free to also address the government, and call for a stop to these unlawful acts. Please include your name and academic position at the beginning or end of your message and send them to: 

Examples of videos and photos in support of these efforts can be found here:

With Best Wishes,

Academic For Peace Initiative (BAK)

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May Accused of Propping up Erdoğan

LEADING trade unionists have demanded that Theresa May stop selling arms to Turkey, accusing her of propping up one of the world’s most oppressive regimes.The call was made at an emergency press conference on Wednesday night, organised by Solidarity with the People of Turkey (Spot), after a new decree issued under the state of emergency last week led to a further 300 academics being removed from their posts.

Shocking statistics reveal the scale of repression in Turkey, where over 200,000 public-sector workers have been sacked, 5,000 academics ousted from their jobs and nearly 200,000 people arrested.

There are also 151 journalists currently in jail, a third of the world’s total.

“Democracy is on a knife edge in Turkey,” said Spot spokesman Cagdas Canbolat, adding that “people feel the need to hide their opinions and beliefs.”

He warned that if radical changes to the Turkish constitution are approved in a referendum in April, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will gain “the power to appoint ministers himself, dismiss the parliament and determine the judiciary.”

Mr Canbolat also accused the Prime Minister of bolstering Mr Erdogan’s authoritarian rule.

He said: “May is making deals to sell jet aircraft to one of the world’s most repressive regimes, effectively condoning the undemocratic pressure and brutal attacks on academics and other groups in Turkey.”

Day-Mer Turkish and Kursish community centre secretary Oktay Sahbaz stressed: “It is important to show public-sector workers in Turkey that they are not alone.

“These are crucial times in the country and Turkish people need support and solidarity from our brothers and sisters.”

NUT vice-president Louise Regan highlighted the need to raise awareness of the situation, urging the meeting to “go away and tell people what is happening.”

TUC international secretary Owen Tudor pledged support, saying the “attacks on democracy and freedom of speech” in the country were a “testament to the rise of those calling for a ‘New Turkey’.”

He warned there was “a global struggle against anti-democratic forces attempting to split the working class.”

RMT assistant general secretary Steve Hedley slammed Ms May for her “dictators tour” following her recent meetings with US President Donald Trump, Mr Erdogan and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

He demanded that the British government stop selling arms to brutal regimes, including Turkey’s, which will use the weapons to oppress their own people.

This article was taken from Morning Star. We would like to thank Steve Sweeney for permitting us to share this article. 

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The policies of the AKP government, which have been ruling the country for the last 14 years, have pushed democracy to the edge. The severity of the situation exceeds even the circumstances of the military coup in 1980.By using the failed coup attempt of July 15th as a pretext, the government is arresting and firing all those that oppose the authoritarian regime in the country. This is a Turkey where people feel the need to hide their opinions and beliefs. Citizens are being accused of and punished for being affiliated with the Gülen movement, allegedly behind the July 15th coup attempt, whom Erdogan and AKP were arm-in-arm with until recently.

More than 200,000 public sector workers have been fired. Approximately 5,000 academics have been removed from their positions. 197,000 people have been arrested, of which 151 are journalists. Not even the indictments have been prepared for 11 writers despite being held for 105 days.

Turkey has the highest number of imprisoned journalists in the world. 112,000 webpages have been banned and approximately 100 TV and radio stations shut down. Zarok TV, a channel broadcasting in Kurdish, and even Hayatın Sesi TV, a channel trying to be the voice of workers, have been shut down claiming propaganda for terrorist organisations. Bank accounts, equipment and property of these media stations have been seized and their assets are now up for sale. Corporations, private schools, private hospitals and small businesses allegedly linked to Gülen community and terrorist organisations have been seized.

12 HDP MPs, the second largest opposition party in the country with 59 MPs in parliament, have been arrested. Its co-leaders Demirtas and Yuksekdag have also been detained with the former facing 142 years of imprisonment. Dozens of Kurdish municipalities had their mayors re-appointed with their elected mayors detained.

A one-man authoritarian system is being called for with a new constitutional reform. If the result of the referendum on the 16th April is a ‘Yes’ vote, the president will be able to enforce any law he wishes. This is a path to a one-man regime with aims to form a dictatorship.

According to the proposed constitution, the President will hold the power to appoint ministers himself, dismiss the parliament and determine the members of highest judicial bodies.

Erdogan and the AKP government have now proceeded to say that any person who sides with the ‘No’ campaign is in agreement with terrorist organisations; they are pressurising institutions to fire journalists, teachers and academics for saying ‘No’.

All of these injustices are justified by using the 15th July coup attempt as an excuse. Turkey has been under a State of Emergency for seven months, and every other week a decree-of-law emerges enabling the government to close whichever media platform they wish or fire any academic they want to remove. Over 300 academics, most of who have no affiliation to the alleged terrorist organisations, have been removed from their jobs under decree-of-law 687 released this week. This has meant that courses cannot be delivered in many universities.

This is why, primarily students, teachers and academics, have started to say ‘enough’ and demonstrations are taking place at many universities. The security forces that took detainees and attacked the streets were given authority to use force by the State of Emergency; even elderly academics have been beaten and removed from the protests.

And yet there is resistance in spite of all these attacks. The academics and students that are under attack need our support. We need to raise our voice and put pressure on both the Turkish state and the UK government.

Let us not forget: Turkey is a major buyer of arms for the Theresa May government. In an attempt to prove to Europe that she “can trade with other countries”, May is making deals to sell jet aircrafts to one of the world’s most repressive regimes, effectively condoning the undemocratic pressure and brutal attacks on academics and other groups in Turkey.

Academics in Turkey should not feel alone.

We call on the British government to condemn the Turkish government’s attack on academics. We also demand that the emergency state governed through decrees are lifted, teachers, academics, journalists and Members of Parliament are freed without any further delay.

We must organise together to achieve these demands.


Please use the hashtags below and tweeter accounts when posting on social media:

#HayirGitmiyoruz, #HocamaDokunma , #AcademicsForPeace , #TurkeyPurge, #HandsOffMyTeacher

@BarisAkademik , @spotturkey , @ScholarsAtRisk

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Steel worker’s planned strike action denied by Turkish Ministers

The planned strike action by steel workers in Bursa, namely Asil Celik, has been banned for “security reasons” according to the Council of Ministers.

However, we believe that the emergency state which has recently been extended is used as a pretext to deny workers the right to protest or strike. The decision by the minsters in Turkey highlights the partnership of the owners of capital and the current AKP government.

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