On June 27, 2017, Dokuz Eylül University’s (DKU) administration reportedly suspended 12 scholars in apparent retaliation for signing a petition calling on the Turkish government to end its crackdowns targeting Kurdish rebels in the southeastern part of the country.
The petition, published in January 2016 and first 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 petition’s publication, all 1128 signatories were placed under criminal and administrative investigation. Many have since been dismissed or suspended from their positions, detained or arrested, or faced other threats.
On June 27, it was announced that administrators at DKU had ordered the suspension of 12 academic personnel who had been placed under criminal investigation for signing the petition. They include: DKU medical faculty Cem Terzi, İzge Günal, Halil Resmi, and Halis Ulaş; economics faculty Ayşen Uysal, Nuri Erkin Başer, Yeşim Edis Şahin, Seçkin Aydın, Aydın Arı, Serap Sarıtaş, and Dilek Karabulut; and fine arts scholar Emel Yuvayapan.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the suspension of scholars 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.