Turkey detains 12 academics for criticizing military campaign against Kurds

© Romeo Gacad
Turkey has arrested 12 academics for signing a declaration denouncing Ankara’s military operations against Kurdish militants. The move comes after more than 1,200 scholars were being investigated for criticizing the Turkish State.

The Anadolu Agency, as cited by AP, says the 12 who were detained by police are lecturers at Kocaeli University in the northwest. Police are still processing the paperwork for nine other academics, who will also be arrested. 

The 1,200 academics had been accused of allegedly participating in “terrorist propaganda” after they signed a declaration condemning military operations against Kurdish rebels in the southeast.

News of the investigation was reported by Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency.

Around 1,200 academics from 89 universities, including prominent foreign scholars such as Noam Chomsky, David Harvey and Immanuel Wallerstein, signed the declaration, which was titled: “We won’t be a part of this crime.”

It called on the authorities in Ankara to end the “massacre and slaughter” in southeast Turkey and lift the siege of Kurdish towns and cities. The declaration also accused Erdogan of waging a war against his own people.

“The responsibility for the present self-inflicted crisis in the country must lie squarely with Erdogan, who perceives the Kurds… as obstacles to his plan to establish supreme rule for the Turkish presidency,” the declaration said.

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu spoke against the signatories.

“It is really very saddening that some of our academics have signed such a declaration while we are fighting terrorism. Every day we are fighting against international terror such as Daesh [Islamic State, previously ISIS/ISIL] and against the separatist terrorist organization that kills civilians in dormitories, including a five-month-old baby. We are working to secure the life and security of our citizens,” Davutoglu said Thursday.

The official comments came as Sedat Peker, a notorious convicted criminal kingpin who actively promotes the idea of pan-Turkism, has issued death threats against intellectuals who signed the declaration.

“We will spill your blood in streams and we will shower in your blood,” Peker said in a blog titled “The So-Called Intellectuals, The Bells Will Toll for You First” on his personal website.

The academics’ criticism of the military operation against the Kurds also angered Turkish President Tayyip Recep Erdogan, who called the declaration “treachery” and urged the judiciary to get involved.

Erdogan described the group of academics as “poor excuses for intellectuals,” in a speech to Turkish ambassadors Tuesday. He insisted that human rights violations in southeast Turkey were being carried out by “terrorists,” referring to the Kurdish rebels, and not by the state.

“A group that call themselves academics has emerged and spewed hatred against their state and nation by publicly taking sides with the terror organization [PKK],” Erdogan said in another speech Thursday.

In turn, Chomsky, a prominent US linguist and philosopher, accused the Turkish president of hypocrisy and applying double standards to terrorism as well as openly aiding terrorist organizations.

“Turkey blamed ISIS [for the attack on Istanbul], which Erdogan has been aiding in many ways, while also supporting the al-Nusra Front, which is hardly different. He then launched a tirade against those who condemn his crimes against Kurds – who happen to be the main ground force opposing ISIS in both Syria and Iraq. Is there any need for further comment?” Chomsky said.

The clashes between Turkish forces and Kurdish fighters from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been outlawed by Ankara, have been ongoing since July, with Turkey’s authorities claiming that those killed during the security operation in the southeast were PKK members.

Erdogan has vowed to continue the operation until the area is cleansed of Kurdish militants. However, according to Turkish human rights groups, more than 160 civilians have also been killed during the government crackdown.

Meanwhile, Kurds have long been campaigning for the right to self-determination and greater autonomy in Turkey, where they are the largest ethnic minority. In late December, a congress of Kurdish nongovernmental organizations called for Turkey’s southeastern regions to be granted autonomy via constitutional reforms.