23:44 GMT +3 hours30 July 2016
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Following the crackdown on journalists, the Turkish governments has now targeted the academic community in a desperate attempt to curb freedom of speech in the country, Turkish Professors Tahsin Yesildere and Fatih Yasli told Sputnik in an interview.

Erdogan Wages War on Professors, Scholars Fight Back for Academic Freedom

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Following the crackdown on journalists, the Turkish government has now targeted the academic community in a desperate attempt to curb freedom of speech in the country, Turkish Professors Tahsin Yesildere and Fatih Yasli told Sputnik in an interview.

It all started after 1,128 academics from 89 Turkish universities, as well as some foreign scholars, signed a document urging the government "to stop the massacre" of Kurds in the southeastern part of the country. Turkish academics called on the government to return to negotiations and said they no longer wanted to be "the accomplices of this crime."

The publication of the the document enraged President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who subsequently lashed out at  the professors.

"Hey, you so-called intellectuals! You aren't enlightened, you're dark people… You're ignorant and know nothing about the situation in the East and South-East [of Turkey]," Erdogan said during his speech in an annual meeting with Turkish diplomats in Ankara.

Following Erdogan's speech, a harassment campaign targeting universities and professors with various inspections and disciplinary actions began. Turkey's Council of Higher Education announced it would start taking legal action against Turkish professors who signed the document protesting Erdogan's policies against Kurds.

"What was so enraging that the professors said in their appeal? They simply asked the government to restore peace in the region… And the reply was the angry criticism and threats to our address," Professor Tahsin Yesildere, the Chairman of Turkey's Association of University Professors, told Sputnik.

Academia Strikes Back at Erdogan

As a response to Erdogan's actions, Turkish scholars expressed a unified position on behalf of all the professors in the country. The official response of Turkish academics stated that all universities in the country must have a right to freely express their point of view and all the government sanctions against academia are illegal.

"The situation must be viewed in conjunction with the issue of the freedom of universities and faculty. Unfortunately, the Council of Higher Education and rectors in many Turkish universities still don't understand what academic freedom is," Yesildere said.

If Turkey's Council of Higher Education was independent, it would have stood to protect academic freedom of professors from the government's attempts to suppress it. Instead, professors, who criticized the government, were told to leave their positions or withdraw their signatures from the protest document, Yesildere said.

"This situation demonstartes that there are no democratic freedoms in Turkey," Yesildere told Sputnik.

That's why, Yesildere thinks it's important that this issue should be discussed in public.

Meanwhile, another public campaign, supposedly signed by some Turkish academics, in support of President Erdogan has been launched. In this petition, a group of Turkish academics appeared condemning the actions of their colleagues, who are trying to fight for academic freedom.

However, the new campaign in support of Erdogan has been exposed as a fake, after Professor Fatih Yasli saw his name on the petition even though he hadn't signed it.

"I didn't even know about this campaign. After I saw my name among the signatories, I immediately published an official rebuttal on Twitter," Yasli told Sputnik.

Yasli also noticed the names of his colleagues whom he knows for sure would never support the petition, which condemn the actions of university professors fighting for their freedom of speech.

"This shows that this campaign is carried out illegally, it published the names of people who don't even suspect that their names are on it," Yasli said, adding that he himself actively supports his colleagues and is determined to fight for the protection of academic freedom in Turkey.

Related:
Ankara Calls EU Parliament Resolution on Turkey’s Freedom of Press ‘Unfair’
Amal Clooney Criticizes Turkey on Freedom of Speech Hypocrisy
Tags:
universities, academic freedom, freedom of speech, crackdown, Fatih Yasli, Tahsin Yesildere, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey
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  • He totally lost it. The end is closer mini-erdogan..
  • marcanhalt
    The sword of Erdogan is mightier than the pen in Turkey. It, however, is just a lot of talk all the way around. Name one science that has progressed because of Turkey, Name one democratic value EVER that came out of Turkey. I know of three married couples that are there who are afraid to speak in public. It is a totalitarian atmosphere for those who understand the term. For those who don't, it is just another display of apathy.
  • in reply tomarcanhalt(Show commentHide comment)
    marcanhalt, free-form baclava?
  • Yet another wrong move. I will watch the Gollum's ejection out of the office with enjoyment and pure amusement. Let's not forget the genocide that is taking place in Turkey, as we speak. He must be punished for it. You pick, Saddam or Gaddafi style?
  • peskyvera
    And this demagogue wants to be admitted to the EU??? Are times changing?
  • tony pin reply topeskyvera(Show commentHide comment)
    peskyvera, The EU is changing to accommodate him.
  • michael
    control the education system you control the following generation(s). I am beginning to think that he wants to eclipse ataturk.
  • Said
    "People have been surfeited with sweetmeats and their digestion has been ruined: bitter medicines, sharp truths, are therefore necessary. (...) Suffice it that the disease has been pointet out: how it is to be cured - God alone knows!"
    (Mikhail Lermontov in his preface to: 'A hero of our time' [transl Wisdom/Murray])
  • peskyverain reply totony p(Show commentHide comment)
    tony p, And one day the EU might regret this association.
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