As feminists and scholars working across national borders, we stand in solidarity with our Turkish colleagues who signed the Academics for Peace statement, “We Will Not Be a Party to this Crime.” How can a peace petition signed by more than 2,200 academics be called a terrorist propaganda? Currently, there are 35 academics from the petition list that have not only received sentences but their sentences cannot be deferred. These include prominent scholars like Dr. Ayşe Gül Altınay, Dr. Leyla Neyzi, Dr. Füsun Üstel, and Dr. Şebnem Korur Fincancı. The completely random nature of the treatment of these academics, the subjective bases of their imprisonment durations, calls into question the objectivity of the Justice system and not the integrity of academics.
We especially condemn the sentence of two years and one-month imprisonment of Dr. Ayşe Gül Altınay received on May 21, 2019. Dr. Altınay is not only an accomplished anthropologist and feminist scholar within Turkey, her work is well known in Gender and Women studies departments globally. She is on the editorial board of the European Journal of Women’s Studies and has been on the forefront of initiating important dialogues between academics in Turkey and those in Europe, United States, South Africa, India, and several other parts of the world. She is an incredibly prolific scholar who writes on pressing issues of the day and her scholarly work is inseparable from her social activism that positively impacts the lives of many people. As director of SU Gender at Sabancı University, Dr. Altınay has deepened relations between academia and civil society. In addition to all of this, Dr. Altınay very deeply cares about the wellbeing of her students and colleagues.
Therefore, sentencing someone like Dr. Altınay for “knowingly and willingly aiding a terrorist organization as a non-member” by the Turkish Justice system makes no sense. Many of the scholars on the list have made valuable contributions to fields ranging from Human Rights and Environment to Science, History and Gender Studies. Gender Studies in particular in Turkey has been at the center of key transnational debates in academia and it is heartbreaking to see so many scholars working on gender issues being persecuted. Many of them who signed the petition have been dismissed from their universities even without being legally charged in court. All these academics’ scholarly and social endeavors are directed towards exactly the opposite of what can be deemed “terrorist”, dangerous, and “propaganda”. Dr. Fincancı for instance has done much needed, groundbreaking work with women survivors of sexual violence and incest.
We stand in solidarity with our persecuted colleagues and demand the dismissal of all their cases. We especially demand the immediate release of our colleague and esteemed scholar Füsün Üstel who has been serving a 15-month sentence since May 8, 2019. Academia is and should continue to be a space where freedom to think, write and speak thrives irrespective of class, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, ability, and opinion. State supported persecution of academics is a gross infringement of this academic freedom and more generally of human rights. For the sake of justice and in order to not further jeopardize the reputation of Turkish politics and universities, the Turkish government should immediately repeal these unfair sentences.
—Statement distributed by Arlene Voski Avakian, UMass Amherst Professor Emeritus