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16 Jan, 2016 01:21

Arrested Turkish academics called for peace talks – petition signee to RT

A petition denouncing Turkey’s military op against Kurds, which was signed by 1,200 academics, was “a call for peace talks” and condemned “violence by everyone,” a signee professor told RT. It has been branded “terrorist propaganda” by the government.

READ MORE: Turkey detains 12 academics for criticizing military campaign against Kurds

Up to 21 academics were detained by Turkish authorities on Friday for signing the petition demanding that Ankara abandon its military crackdown on Kurdish rebels in the southeast of the country. The authorities reportedly freed over a dozen of them later in the day.

“We are not sure of the exact number of how many have been detained, but we know that they have been taken into custody as of this [Friday] morning, some in very brutal ways. The police was making searches at their offices at universities and in their homes,” Maya Arakon, a Turkish petition signatory and associate professor of political science and international relations at Suleyman Sah University, told RT.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan claimed the academics sided with the Kurdish militants, who are considered terrorists by the government.

“We are not crazy people, we would not release a declaration if we had a smallest clue of any [relation] to terrorist propaganda,” Arakon said.

The petition “is exactly the opposite” to what is claimed by the government, David Graeber, a professor at the London School of Economics, who is among the dozens of foreign scholars that signed the petition, told RT.

“It’s a call for people to lay down their arms, sit down and talk reasonably to each other, which is precisely the role that intellectuals should have – to encourage people to be thoughtful and non-violent,” Graeber said. “It does condemn violence by everyone, and that includes the Turkish state,” he said, adding that “it has to be borne in mind that most of the violence right now is coming from the Turkish state.”

“I should emphasize, it’s not primarily a condemnation of Turkish actions – it’s primarily a call for peace talks, which seems like an entirely reasonable thing for academics or anyone else to be calling for under the circumstances,” the London professor said.

READ MORE: Turkish military crackdown & curfews force 200,000 civilians flee Kurdish southeast – report 

According to Graeber’s sources, apart from the 21 academics who were arrested, many of those who signed the petition “are at least being threatened with being fired from their jobs, many of them already have [been fired].”

“There seems to be a massive purge of moderate academics throughout Turkey going on right now,” Graeber concluded. “It seems like what Erdogan is pursuing is a form of a presidential rule in which he would be a de facto dictator – this is what a lot of people are saying in Turkey... He seems to have managed to get a grip on the military, he seems to have suppressed most of the opposition press, now he is going after academics,” he said.

“The situation for human rights in Turkey in general is at a very low [level]. In the southeast of Turkey there are reports of grave human rights abuses, with the use of force by police and the military resulting in unarmed residents being killed, indefinite curfews going on, which violate the rights of residents for access to food, water and urgent medical care. As well, the situation with freedom of expression is very grave in Turkey... Many people didn’t see how it could even get worse than it was already, but it seems that each day it really can get worse,” Amnesty International’s researcher on Turkey, Andrew Gardner, told RT.

While human rights activists have dubbed the government’s refusal to accept the petition a violation of free speech and academic freedom, Graeber says the ongoing unrest in the country plays into Erdogan’s hands.

“There has been a swing towards authoritarianism over the last three or four years... [It] seems to have a lot to do with Erdogan’s decision that in order to cling on to power he has to foment a sensitive instability and unrest,” the professor told RT, adding that “there is a systematic campaign going on” in which the president is accusing everyone who is against his policies of being “a terrorist or a friend of terrorist.”

READ MORE: Erdogan cites Hitler’s Germany as example of effective presidential system

“I am really worried about my friends and colleagues in Turkey. These are very brave people, because they know what’s happening to their country and they love their country and they’re trying to save it from the fate of falling into this form of violent authoritarianism. And it’s really important that people around the world should be in solidarity with them. These are the people who represent all of the values we claim to speak for,” Graeber said.