The Executive Committee of the International Human Rights Network of Academies and Scholarly Societies (H.R. Network) issued a statement endorsed by 28 Nobel laureates in support of Turkish academics who have come under fire for signing a petition calling for an end to military operations in southeast Turkey, the Hurriyet Daily News reports.
In a statement released on Jan. 19, the committee, which uses the international stature of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine to advocate in support of non-violent academics, said it was “alarmed” by the increasingly “repressive and inflammatory” reactions of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government against opposition voices.
The H.R. Network expressed concern that “intolerant individuals” and university officials who have joined government officials in accusing the academics, “solely because they publicly expressed humanitarian concerns about the grave crisis in southeastern Turkey.”
“We condemn any threats, false accusations, and incitement to violence against our colleagues by the government of Turkey,” it said, while reminding the government of its obligation under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to ensure that its citizens are free to hold and disseminate their opinions.
“Surely, citizens of a democratic country such as Turkey, and its academics in particular, have a civic duty to remind their government, when deemed necessary, of its obligation to respect Turkey’s constitution, adhere to humanitarian standards for all of its citizens, and give priority to peaceful solutions in crisis situations,” the statement added.
Just a day after the committee’s statement, on Jan. 20, the European University Association (EUA) also published a press release expressing “deep concern” over the treatment of Turkish academics.
“The EUA would also like to underline that, irrespective of the content of the petition, freedom of expression is a core university value and a sine qua non of democratic societies,” the statement said, adding that the Turkish government and the country’s Higher Education Council (YOK) should respect freedom of expression.
The association added that it was “dismayed” by the detention of signatory academics at Kocaeli University, which is itself an EUA member.
Universities and prosecutor’s offices across Turkey have launched investigations into many of the 1,128 local and international academics and intellectuals who signed the petition titled “We Will not be a Party to this Crime,” arguing that the petition went beyond the limits of academic freedoms.
The investigations and detentions came soon after President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan slammed the petition’s signatories, stating that human rights violations in the southeast are being committed by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants and not the Turkish state.