Academics For Peace Initiative

It began as a little spat between Noam Chomsky and Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Correction, it began as a organized series of acts of criminal injustice by Erdoğan on which Chomsky refused to be silent. Many other foreign academics joined with Chomsky in signing an open letter to the Turkish government calling for peace in Southeast Turkey. Erdoğan shot back saying, “You are either for the Turkish government or you are for terrorism.” Then, on Monday, January 11, over twelve hundred Turkish academics signed the “Academics for Peace” initiative. This is the letter they sent:

As academics and researchers of this country, we will not be a party to this crime!

The Turkish state has effectively condemned its citizens in Sur, Silvan, Nusaybin, Cizre, Silopi, and many other towns and neighbourhoods in the Kurdish provinces to hunger through its use of curfews that have been ongoing for weeks. It has attacked these settlements with heavy weapons and equipment that would only be mobilized in wartime. As a result, the right to life, liberty, and security, and in particular the prohibition of torture and ill-treatment protected by the constitution and international conventions have been violated.

This deliberate and planned massacre is in serious violation of Turkey’s own laws and international treaties to which Turkey is a party. These actions are in serious violation of international law.

We demand the state to abandon its deliberate massacre and deportation of Kurdish and other peoples in the region. We also demand the state to lift the curfew, punish those who are responsible for human rights violations, and compensate those citizens who have experienced material and psychological damage. For this purpose we demand that independent national and international observers to be given access to the region and that they be allowed to monitor and report on the incidents.

We demand the government to prepare the conditions for negotiations and create a road map that would lead to a lasting peace which includes the demands of the Kurdish political movement. We demand inclusion of independent observers from broad sections of society in these negotiations. We also declare our willingness to volunteer as observers. We oppose suppression of any kind of the opposition.

We, as academics and researchers working on and/or in Turkey, declare that we will not be a party to this massacre by remaining silent and demand an immediate end to the violence perpetrated by the state. We will continue advocacy with political parties, the parliament, and international public opinion until our demands are met.

Since that time twenty-seven professors have been arrested and charged with “propagandising for a terrorist organisation”. If convicted they will face five years in prison. Criminal investigation has begun on over a thousand other professors and students from ninety universities. Erdoğan has realized that the thinking people within this country will not stand quiet as he grabs for more and more dictatorial powers and wages war on minority groups within Turkey’s borders.

Skyline of Sur, Diyarbakır.
Skyline of Sur, Diyarbakır.

One of the areas that Erdoğan has highlighted in recent speeches as especially intransigent is the Sur province (burrough) in the city of Diyarbakir. The local news agencies will jump all over the two soldiers wounded today but they will never mention how in a week’s time the Turkish military and “law enforcement” killed over two hundred Kurd “militants” and an additional one hundred fifty civilians (See the NY Times article). The Sur province held about 24,000 people before a curfew was declared nearly two months ago.

On the streets of Diyarbakır
On the streets of Diyarbakır

Now there are an estimated 3,000-4,000 people remaining. That is over twenty thousand civilians displaced… or dead. This is just from one small area. Since this past July there has been over a hundred thousand Kurds internally displaced within Turkey’s borders. Apparently the refugees streaming into Turkey courtesy of Bashar Assad and ISIS isn’t enough. Erdoğan wants to get in on the game and add to their numbers.

This madness has to stop. That is why so many academics here in Turkey are risking their freedom and raising their voices. If you want to stand with these courageous and good voices here in Turkey please visit the website for the petition here.

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