Academic freedom in Turkey: EUA calls for exoneration of academics facing prison

28 March 2019

EUA is gravely concerned by recent reports that a court of appeals in Turkey has upheld prison sentences for academics who signed the 2016 Academics for Peace petition “We Will not be a Party to this Crime”, which addressed the situation in south eastern Turkey.

In late February, Professor Füsun Üstel of the University of Galatasaray in Istanbul was the first to lose her appeal of a 15-month prison sentence. This could set a precedent for dozens of other academics who filed similar appeals.Many of the signatories who were charged received suspended sentences for five years during which they must refrain from committing further “crimes”.

EUA has followed these developments within its broader monitoring of the situation of universities and their members in Turkey. On several occasions, the Association has spoken out against measures the Turkish government took after the attempted coup in July 2016. That occasion notably sparked the forced resignation, suspension and arrest of thousands of public servants, including academics and higher education administrators.

EUA has condemned this strong pressure exerted on university autonomy and academic freedom in Turkey. More recently, the re-election of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in June 2018 was followed only weeks later by a new wave of dismissals of state employees, including university personnel.

EUA expresses its steadfast support for the Turkish higher education community and calls for the immediate exoneration of the sentenced academics, like Professor Üstel, and the suspension of any ongoing trials. Irrespective of the content of the 2016 Academics for Peace petition, EUA maintains that freedom of expression is a core value, also for universities, and calls on the Turkish government to respect and protect this fundamental principle. The Association will continue to monitor the evolution of the situation and its impact on the university sector.

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