The “Academia for Equality” in Israel sent a letter on Friday, March 18, in solidarity with three Turkish academics in Istanbul who have been arrested and are being held in prison on suspicion of “making terrorist propaganda.” The three, psychologist Esra Mungan from Boğaziçi University, mathematician Kıvanç Ersoy from Mimar Sinan University, and political scientist Muzaffer Kaya from Nişantaşı University, had signed a petition back in January calling for an end to violence between government forces and Kurdish groups in Turkey’s southeast. They were taken in for questioning on March 14 and have now been formally arrested and are being held without bail. Four days earlier, the three had held a press conference affirming their commitment to the “Academics for Peace” declaration, which was launched more than two months ago and was quickly signed by more than 1,100 Turkish academics and several hundred Western intellectuals, including renowned linguist and political activist Noam Chomsky.
Over 1,100 academics from 89 universities in Turkey had gathered in a meeting hall in Taksim, Istanbul on January 11, to compile a declaration calling for peace. The declaration demanded that the Turkish government end its siege against the southeastern cities of Turkey, and reiterated the motto of the text – which later became the title – stating “we will not be party to this crime!”
Since then academics have been witness to violent reactions: their offices have been raided and marked (marking of doors has preceded earlier massacres in modern Turkish history); some have been subjected to pressure on campus; they are intimidated in their day-to-day life; they have been subjected to hate campaigns by pro-government media; and government officials have stated that these academics will face the direst of all punishments for “complying with terrorism through academic means.” A notorious criminal who had been awarded the title the “Khan of all Turks” by the Ministry of Culture said “There will be rivers of blood, and I will bathe in the blood of the academics who do not wish to be party to a crime.”
The “Academia for Equality” is an Israeli organization with over one hundred academics committed to a just peace with the Palestinian people and to social justice within Israeli society. According to the message sent to “Academics for Peace” in Turkey: “We learned with grave concern of the arrest of your colleagues Esra Mungan, Muzaffer Kaya and Kıvanç Ersoy. The ongoing assaults on civil liberties in the Turkish state – including the right to free speech for academics – are a terrible wrong that we condemn without reservation.”
The letter sent by the “Academia for Equality” went on to say: “We see many parallels between your group and our own: we too are citizens of a state that is complicit in the denial of the national rights of an oppressed people, whose rights we support. While dissenting Israeli academics certainly do not face assaults as grave as those you confront bravely, we recognize that the danger you face looms over us as well. As long as Turkish academics are not free to speak their minds against racism, discrimination and war, our own freedom to do so in the Israeli-Palestinian context stands little chance of remaining secure. With the greatest solidarity possible we wish you full and complete success in your struggle. We are proud to regard your exemplary struggle for a Middle East free of repression, war and atrocities as our own.”