Three academics were placed in pretrial detention on 16th March, Muzaffer Kaya, Esra Mungan, and Kıvanç Ersoy. Ersoy teaches in the mathematics department at Mimar Sinan University and Mungan in the psychology department at Boğaziçi University. Kaya was recently dismissed from the social work department at Nişantaşı University for signing the petition. They were detained and then jailed by a court a day after President Erdoğan called for the crime of terrorism to be widened to include expression which he judges “serves the aims of terrorists,” and which would target professions such as journalists, politicians, and activists. His remarks came after the March 13 bombing which killed 37 people in Ankara’s city center.
The Turkish government and the President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan continue to oppress political dissent violently and illegally in Turkey. On January 11, President Erdoğan accused 1128 academics of treason for signing a call for peace in Turkey. In the call, the signatories stated that they would not be party either to the massacre against the Kurds or to Turkish’s state’s ongoing violation of its own laws and international treaties. Following Erdoğan’s speech, hundreds of academics who signed the petition were subject to disciplinary and criminal investigations, detentions and suspensions.
In response to this witch-hunt, we had signed a letter in support of academic freedom in Turkey and asked for ending the prosecution of Academics for Peace. The letter was submitted to MPs and MEPs in Europe and published in the media in January.
Yet the Turkish government did not heed the call for academic freedom and had intensified the witch-hunt against the Academics for Peace. As of 10 March 2016, the toll was as follows:
Public Universities Private Universities
Disciplinary investigations 464 43
Criminal investigations 153
Contract termination 9 21
Forced resignations 5 1
Furthermore, on 15 March 2016 three academics were incarcerated for signing the original call of Academics for Peace and announcing that they will start an ‘Academic Vigil’. The arrested academics are: Esra Mungan of Boğaziçi University, Kıvanç Ersoy of Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University, and Muzaffer Kaya, formerly of Nişantaşı University.
A fourth academic and a UK citizen, Chris Stephenson of Bilgi University, was detained for holding a vigil outside the court in support of the three academics and for carrying a Newroz (Kurdish New Year) invitation from a parliamentary party – the People’s Democratic Party (HDP). On 16 March 2016, the case of Chris Stephenson, who has been resident in Turkey since 1991, was transferred to another court with the demand of being deported, and he had to leave the country.
We ask the international community and elected representatives to call on the Turkish government to stop the witch hunt against Academics for Peace, respect academic freedoms, free the arrested academics, and re-instate all the academics suspended or expelled during the persecution campaign with compensation.