At ambassadors' conference, President Erdoğan targeted “peace declaration” signed by 1128 academics and said: “Pseudo-intellectuals, you are full of darkness.”We asked what these statements mean to Şebnem Korur Fincancı, Ayşe Gül Altınay, Gençay Gürsoy, Erhan Keleşoğlu and Ohannes Kılıçdağı who are among the signatories of the declaration.
1128 academics from Turkey and other countries released a call for peace recently and stated that they won't be accomplices to this crime as academics and researchers.
“Academics for Peace” initiative, which includes people like Esra Mungan, Ahmet İnsel, Koray Çalışkan, Nazan Üstündağ, Gençay Gürsoy, Murat Paker, Noam Chomsky, David Harwey, Etienne Balibar, Judith Butler and Immanuel Wallertein, emphasized that curfews and clashes in Sur, Silvan, Nusaybin, Cizre, Silopi and many other places "violate the internal law of Turkey, international conventions to which Turkey is a party and compulsory rules of international law and international customary law."
Academics demanded that negotiation conditions are restored and said: "The state should immediately abandon the policy of massacre and displacement against all the people in the region, especially against Kurds; lift the curfews; punish the ones who are responsible for the human rights violations; compensate all kinds of losses of the people who live within the regions under curfew; allow international observers to enter the region in order that they can observe and report what is happening there.”
After this statement is released, Erdoğan made statements that pointed the signatory academics as target.
Here are Erdoğan's statements:
“Some people who call themselves academics defame Turkey for protecting its land and threaten the people in the region. They invite foreign observers to Turkey. This is nothing but colonialism. Turkey had faced with the betrayal of this mentality a century ago. There were people who believe that only foreigners can solve the problems.
These pseudo-intellectuals say that the state massacres people. You are full of darkness. You are not intellectuals at all. You are so ignorant that you don't even know the directions to the east and here. However, we know the directions to our home very well.
Turkey is not accountable to these people who call themselves academics. We are only accountable to our nation. Security forces will be there until the terrorist organizations leave the region completely.
I put the academics from Turkey aside; their names are native, but their minds are foreign, but I have an offer for the foreign academics. I invite them to Turkey. They are welcome, signing in vain is not enough. Come to Turkey. We are ready to explain what is happening in southeast and east with evidences.”
Statement from Turkey's Council of High Education (YÖK)
Soon after the statements of Erdoğan, YÖK also released a written statement saying that “they will do the necessary within the scope of law”:
“The declaration that was released by a group of academics, which identifies our state's fight against terrorism as “massacre and injustice”, bring all the members of the academic community under suspicion. In a democratic country, the profession or the title of people who support terrorism doesn't provide any privilege to them, since supporting terrorism shouldn't be underestimated. This declaration which supports terrorism cannot be associated with academic freedom. Providing safety for the citizens is the main duty of the state. We will do the necessary about this declaration within the scope of law. We will hold meetings with rectors and inter-universities committee.”
We asked what these statements mean to Şebnem Korur Fincancı, Ayşe Gül Altınay, Gençay Gürsoy, Erhan Keleşoğlu and Ohannes Kılıçdağı who are among the signatories of the declaration.
Prof. Dr. Şebnem Korur Fidancı – Istanbul Univesity
They should respect the freedom of expression
Statements of the president and YÖK is an attack against the freedom of expression. They say that they will act within the scope of law, but they should respect the freedom of expression if they want to act in accordance with law. Of course, this attitude has the purpose of destroying the discussion platform and dissident voices. This is just the attitude we expected. We discharged our responsibility. And they will do what they think they should do politically. In this country, people who demanded peace stood trial before. However, we knew who were the ones who should be ashamed of themselves then. We know it now.
Assoc. Prof. Dr. Ayşe Gül Altınay – Sabancı University
We are being pointed as target at every stage
For me, the declaration is a scream which says “They are committing a crime and we won't be accomplices to it. We should seek for peace.” It is surprising that many academics from Turkey and other countries signed this declaration, since it is hard for academics to agree on a discourse. However, the situation here is so bleak that everyone wanted to agree leaving aside their differences. We are going through a phase that leads destruction and self-destruction. It is hard for these people to come together under normal circumstances, but they did it. This means something. In the text, there is a call for obeying the internal law of Turkey, international law and human rights law. I find it hard to understand how this call can be considered as an element of crime. Erdoğan mentioned the signatories with offensive terms and called them traitors and this shows to what extent freedom of expression and the word of science is limited in Turkey. Criticizing the acts of the state and government amounts to being a terrorist. On the other hand, there is another danger: the names and pictures of our friends who live in small cities are revealed and they are pointed as target. If any one of the signatory academics is subjected to violence, the ones who made these statements would be held responsible for it. We are being pointed as target at every stage. How can a president point the academics of his country as target? Unfortunately, this shows that even the most basic democratic processes doesn't operate in Turkey.
Prof. Dr. Gençay Gürsoy – Istanbul University (retired)
Back to being a part of “1402”
I am old enough to witness all political events that happened in Turkey in last 50 years. When I was younger, there was something like “being a part of 1402”. Under the junta regime of September 12 coup, 150 people were expelled from the universities without a court order. We are heading back to the days of junta regime. At that time, a general was in charge. Now, we are ruled by a civilian general. The president invited the foreign signatories to come to Turkey for observing what is happening. We embrace this invitation. We will make efforts for bringing people like Noam Chomsky and David Harvey here. I think that the threats won't stop. We got used to it, but we, as the signatories, will continue struggling until democracy, peace and freedom is constituted in this country.
Assistant Prof. Dr. Erhan Keleşoğlu – Istanbul University
We used our freedom of expression
I haven't read all the statements, but I can say that we used our freedom of expression. Academia equals to freedom of expression. The president might have developed a limiting discourse towards that freedom, but it is his problem.
Dr. Ohannes Kılıçdağı - Istanbul Bilgi University
They try to eliminate the middle grounds
The declaration set the government and its supporters in motion and this is better than remaining silent. This declaration demand that the state act in accordance with internal and international laws and that violations of human rights are investigated by national and international mechanisms. I mean, it is a minimal text that calls for the state to be a legitimate one. They are disturbed by the use of the word “massacre”. Well, the state itself says that hundreds of people are killed. We don't know how and why these people were killed, and also dead bodies are left on the streets. Under these circumstances, calling this “massacre” should come as no surprise. Their reaction is very familiar: defamation, accusation of treason, oppression and threats. They say that you are either with us or with terrorists, which is a statement that was also uttered by Bush in the past. YÖK's threat to carry a collective investigation echoes the times of junta or single-party regime. YÖK has already decided that the declaration supports terrorism and their reason is the same with the that of the president: if you don't approve anything that state does, then you automatically support terrorism. This mentality that tries to eliminate middle grounds will intensify the conflict; so, we have to deny it.