On January 15, 2016, Giresun University announced that it had suspended Associate Professor Dilek Özhan Koçak for signing a petition calling on the Turkish government to end its crackdowns targeting Kurdish rebels in the southeastern part of the country. In addition, the university announced that it had placed Professor Koçak under an administrative investigation, pursuant to Article 26 of the Disciplinary Regulations for Managers, Instructors and Officers of Higher Education Institutions.
The petition, signed by 1128 scholars from 89 Turkish universities, as well as more than 300 scholars from outside the country, demands an end to fighting between Turkish forces and members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). It accuses that the government of the “deliberate massacre and deportation” of civilians, and calls on the government to allow independent observers into the region, end curfews, and renew peace efforts.
Following the publication of the petition on January 11, 2016, public authorities placed all of its 1128 Turkish signatories under investigation. Since that time, many of the scholars who signed the petition have reportedly faced criminal, as well as professional retaliation.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about professional retaliation against a scholar in response to the nonviolent exercise of the rights to academic freedom, free expression and free association, conduct that is expressly protected under international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Turkey is a party. Where they are a part of a widespread pattern, such incidents have a profoundly chilling effect on academic freedom, undermine democratic society generally, and may represent a grave threat to higher education on a national scale. State and university authorities have an obligation to comply with internationally recognized standards of academic freedom, freedom of expression and freedom of association, as well as due process and fair trial.
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