Support the livelihoods and careers of Turkish academics and PhD students who are victims of repression

solidaritycampaign_0Posted on behalf of BAK (Academics for Peace) Edinburgh

Background: In an increasingly authoritarian political climate in Turkey, dissident views are being repressed and one of the areas hit hardest has been academia. The state has recently assumed control over all public universities, using the state of emergency to give President Erdogan the right to appoint rectors. Academics have been dismissed from their posts by decree, with no legal mechanism to appeal. So far over 11,000 have been purged (the last 4,000 by decree just a few days after Erdogan’s victory in the recent referendum), and those who have lost their jobs describe their situation as a kind of “civil death”, in which they are unable to find employment in academia or even in the private sphere, where employers fear retribution for taking on a person labelled by the state as a “terrorist”.

Among the most vulnerable of these academics are the signatories of the Academics for Peace (BAK) petition. These are the 2,212 academics, including over 800 doctoral candidates, who signed a petition calling for an end to state violence in the predominantly Kurdish southeast of Turkey. In consequence, many of them have been subjected to death threats, prosecutions, harassment, scapegoating by state-controlled media, and the “civil death” described above. The state is targeting voices like the Academics for Peace as a way of suppressing dissident views, of polarising society and of mobilising support. The ongoing state of emergency provides virtually unlimited powers to do so.

Our group and aim: In this context, BAK support groups have been set up in Universities in the US and Canada, Germany, Belgium, France and the UK, which seek to provide support for these academics. Our group is one of these, and includes PG and UG students, as well as academics, mostly from SSPS and LLC. We are in close contact with another such group at the University of Stirling.

 Through the BAK network, we have carried out a survey among the 800 PhD/graduate signatories, and received 63 responses. Among these 49 are under investigation; 25 have been removed from their studentships; and 21 have had their passports confiscated. A small number are in dire straits financially. Unfortunately, as PhD students these individuals are not eligible for the hardship support provided by Egitim-Sen, the Turkish HE Union. Furthermore, PhD students and recent graduates are not covered by the definition of “academics” used by groups like CARA (the Council for At-Risk Academics).

 Our aim is to work with the University and UCU to provide support particularly for current PhD students and recent graduates, signatories of the BAK petition, to continue their studies, and maintain an affiliation to the academic community. To achieve this, we are working to set up a Remote Visiting Student Scheme, involving financial hardship support, online access to UoE library resources and academic mentoring on a voluntary basis by UoE staff.

Your Support is Vital: To achieve our aims, particularly in relation to hardship support, we urgently seek donations from all colleagues who are concerned by the plight of their fellow academics in Turkey. This support could make all the difference for early career scholars who are at risk, enabling them to continue with their dissertations and expand their academic opportunities and horizons beyond Turkey.

Support for 6 individuals to continue their PhD studies for a year, calculated on the basis of the Turkish minimum wage, would require fundraising of £23,000. 

We plan to launch an online fundraising platform soon. In the meantime, we will be collecting cash donations at the UCU Edinburgh AGM on 13 June. Please consider making a contribution: no donation is too small.

If you would like to be actively involved in the BAK Edinburgh group please drop us a line: edinburghbak@gmail.com