Statement on Turkey from the International Consortium of Critical Theory Programs

April 9, 2018

In January 2016 more than 2000 Turkish academics, known as “Academics for Peace,” signed a petition entitled “We Will Not Be Party to this Crime” which asked the state to resume its diplomatic negotiations with the Kurdish movement to bring an end to the military conflict.   During the time of intensified military activity in Turkey’s Kurdish-populated towns, the petitioners cited violations of international law and invoked basic democratic principles as they objected to the continuation of violence against the Kurdish people and called for an end to the round-the-clock curfews that deprived the population of necessary provisions.  In addition to facing criminal trials, nearly 500 academic signatories to the petition have lost their positions. Many have been blacklisted in the labor market and some are now subject to travel bans or have had their passports revoked, preventing them from either working in Turkey or abroad. Yet others find themselves in forced exile. The government has accused the signatories of assisting “terrorist forces” although their action was clearly a call for peace and for the cessation of all violence.

As a result of the ongoing criminal trials against the signatories of the Academics for Peace petition in Turkey, ten academics have been given 15-month prison sentences for allegedly “making propaganda for a terrorist organization.”  Our colleagues are now being offered a bleak choice: they can either appeal the convictions and risk imprisonment should their appeal fail, or they can have their sentences suspended on the condition that they relinquish the right to appeal and agree not commit a similar “crime” over the next five years. These criminal convictions are but the latest twist in the prolonged persecution of more than two thousand signatories of the Academics for Peace petition, and they are likely to influence the outcome of hundreds of trials in which each signatory is prosecuted individually, merely for having signed the petition.

 The International Consortium of Critical Theory Programs strongly condemns the criminalization of critical public speech that takes issue with state policy and opposes the attack on universities that seeks to impose political censorship and the suppression of free inquiry.  Both of these attacks on democratic intellectual culture are taking place in Turkey with the recent internment of university students, the loss of employment for those who have spoken their minds, and forced exile for those who fear reprisal from the state. As critical theorists we affirm free and open inquiry and defend the view that there can be no democracy without a culture of political critique and the protection of the rights of dissidents.