Turkey: Nobel laureates and renowned professors call for freezing collaborations amid mass trials of academics

Protection 4 min read
ARTICLE 19
Turkey: Nobel laureates and renowned professors call for freezing collaborations amid mass trials of academics - Protection

New York City, March 26, 2019— Five Nobel Laureates and dozens of world-renowned professors, such as Noam Chomsky, Seyla Benhabib, Steven Pinker, Judith Butler, and Bruce Alberts, are among the 1,750 academics condemning the recent mass trials of academics in Turkey and calling for an end to international collaborations with complicit Turkish institutions and universities.

In 2016, two thousand academics in Turkey signed a public statement by Academics for Peace calling for peace within the country, and in 2017 they were charged with “propagandizing for a terrorist organization.” Over 1,000 academics have been charged and more than 100 have been convicted thus far. Dozens of hearings have taken place this month alone. (For a history of the persecution of the signatories to the Academics for Peace statement, see the report “Academics for Peace: A Brief History,” produced by the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey and released in March 2019.) Those who did not appeal their conviction had their sentences suspended (typically a 15-month prison term, although sentences of 27 or 29 months are not uncommon), avoiding prison time unless convicted of subsequent crimes, but losing their jobs and often their passports. Some academics chose to appeal their conviction and those appeals are now being decided. Prof. Füsun Üstel was the first to appeal and she is the first to have her conviction upheld. She is now preparing for prison and the decision in her case sets a dangerous precedent for subsequent appeals.

According to Sarah Clarke, Head of Article 19, Europe and Central Asia programme:

The Appeal Court decision to uphold the sentence of Professor Füsun Üstel for terrorism, simply for putting her name to a petition calling for peace in Southeast Turkey, sets a horrifying precedent for her two thousand colleagues facing the same absurd charges. This decision, based on a total misuse of terror legislation, is a further blow to what little remains of freedom of expression and academic freedom in Turkey. We urge the Turkish authorities to cease its persecution of critical voices, suspend this conviction and drop the charges against academics in the country.

The international campaign calling for the exoneration of Prof. Füsun Üstel and other academics in Turkey, who were convicted of terrorism-related charges for petitioning their government, was launched on March 12 2019. An open letter addressed to Turkish officials calls for an end to academic collaborations with institutions and universities in Turkey that deliberately target academic freedom. The letter has been endorsed by PEN International; PEN America; Columbia University’s Global Freedom of Expression; Article 19; National Writers Union – UAW Local 1981/AFL-CIO; Research Institute on Turkey; Academic Solidarity Network; Forum Transregionale Studien; Academics for Peace – North America; Academics for Peace – United Kingdom; California Scholars for Academic Freedom; English PEN; and Dansk PEN.

For more information, including contact information for international court observers, exiled academics from Turkey, academics on trial, lawyers, or experts on Turkish politics, please text or call 720-288-5236 or [email protected]