SHAFAQNA – Turkey has launched an investigation into academics who signed a petition criticizing the military’s crackdown on Kurdish rebels in the south-east that angered President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
More than 1,200 academics from 90 Turkish universities calling themselves “Academicians for Peace”, as well as foreign scholars, signed the petition last week calling for an end to the months-long violence.
Entitled “We won’t be a party to this crime”, the petition urged Ankara to “abandon its deliberate massacre and deportation of Kurdish and other peoples in the region”.
It was signed by dozens of foreign luminaries and intellectuals, among them the US academic Noam Chomsky and the Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek.
Istanbul prosecutors launched the investigation, with the Turkish academics facing accusations ranging from “terrorist propaganda” and “inciting people to hatred, violence and breaking the law” to “insulting Turkish institutions and the Turkish Republic,” the official Anatolia news agency said.
The case has been taken up by Turkish federal prosecutors in Istanbul, with all 1,128 Turkish signatories of the petition under investigation, the Doğan news agency said.
If convicted, they could face between one and five years in prison.
Rights activists said the government should accept the petition as the result of freedom of speech. “Turkey’s PM – himself an academic – apparently does not recognise the right to free speech or academic freedom,” Emma Sinclair-Webb, senior researcher at Human Rights Watch (HRW), wrote on Twitter.
In response to the petition, Erdoğan had fired off an angry tirade against “those so-called intellectuals” accusing them of “treason” and being the “fifth columns” of foreign powers, sympathising with terrorists and bent on undermining Turkey’s national security.
In a televised speech to Turkish ambassadors in Ankara, Erdoğan invited Chomsky and other academics to visit the area to see “the true picture”.
Referring to operations of the Kurdish separatists in the PKK, Erdoğan added: “We are ready to tell them what is happening in the south-east. They should see with their eyes whether the problem is a violation by the state or the hijacking of our citizens’ rights and freedoms by the terrorist organisation.”
Chomsky hit back at Erdoğan yesterday, rejecting the invitation.
In an email to the Guardian, he said: “If I decide to go to Turkey, it will not be on his invitation, but as frequently before at the invitation of the many courageous dissidents, including Kurds who have been under severe attack for many years.”
The open letter to Erdoğan, which was released last month, said: “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, 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.”
Five people were killed and 39 wounded yesterday in a car bomb attack by Kurdish militants on a police station and adjacent housing for officers in south-eastern Turkey, the provincial governorate said.
Two people were killed in an initial car bomb attack blamed on the PKK in the town of Çınar while three more lost their lives when a building collapsed due to the damage sustained, the governor’s office of Diyarbakır province said in a statement.
The PKK launched a formal insurgency against the Turkish state in 1984, initially fighting for Kurdish independence although it now presses more for greater autonomy and rights for the country’s largest ethnic minority. The conflict has left tens of thousands dead.
A new upsurge of violence between the security forces and the PKK erupted in July in the wake of attacks blamed on Islamist extremists, shattering a fragile two-and-a-half-year truce.
Vowing to flush out the PKK from Turkey’s urban centres, the authorities have in recent weeks enforced curfews in three locations in the south-east to back up military operations that activists say have killed dozens of civilians.