Alarmingly it has now become clear that Academics for Peace initiative has occupied more than a symbolic place in the Turkish political landscape. The petition signed by 2000 professors from over 89 universities within and outside Turkey deplores the loss of lives, expresses concern and sympathy for those civilians inflicted with enormous suffering, and chronicles the tragic outcome of the curfews that plague areas such as Sur, Sivan, Nusaybin, Cizre, and Silopi.
The statement condemns the brutalities and blatant mistreatment of residents of the affected areas and warns against more horrific consequences unless the siege comes to an end.
The petition proposes sending a national and international group of observers to investigate and report their findings regarding the situation; in offering hope of reconciliation, the declaration reasserts the importance of the resumption of the peace process. In short, it is a call for peace.
However, once the message was publicized in Turkey, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) embarked on a defamation campaign against the signatories of the statement.
The hysterical reaction reveals the extent to which violence has become a conventionalized and ritualized political weapon for Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) propaganda against real or imaginary enemies.
As Huxley observes “Rulers of countries and leaders of parties find morality embarrassing. That is why they take such pain to depersonalize their opponents. All propaganda directed against an opposing group has one aim: to substitute diabolical abstractions for concrete persons….” The peace plea has fatalistically been turned into an ideological witch-hunt as new specter of Erdoganism pervades.
Erdogan in his customary Machiavellian manner denounced the signatories as “so-called academics”, “fifth column”, meddlers that know nothing about the geography of the “Southeast”, “so-called intellectuals …dark people” agents of foreign powers who intend to bring back “protectorate “ or colonial powers that “Turkey“ experienced, [their] betrayal …100 years ago.” He specifically branded Noam Chomsky--the prominent linguist and intellectual whose scope of knowledge about world affairs cannot be questioned--“ignorant” about the situation in the “Southeast.”
Although this is not the first time that AKP is silencing dissents and calling their critics names, the politics of Erdoganism took on a more aggressive language against any freedom of expression and any pleas for peace anywhere in the world.
Soon after Erdogan’s cursing ritual, Higher Education Council set out to investigate those who had signed the declaration in Turkey. Prosecutors immediately began bringing lawsuits against “subversive” academicians who presumably had undermined “the nation” and “Turkishness” and “spread terrorist propaganda.”
In a letter of protest in defense of academic freedoms in Turkey, addressed to the Turkish Prime Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, Middle East Studies Association (MESA) cites multiple examples of punitive measures that are being currently taken against the academics in Turkey on the ground that they have signed the peace petition.
Yet according to another letter of support written by the British-based Academic Community, 22 academicians have been arrested, facing imprisonments of 1-5 years.
The belligerent tirade instigated by AKP is inflaming Islamist bigots, fascists, and even criminals to take matters into their own hands. A convicted criminal like Sedat Peker who happens to be a supporter of AKP Party, issued a monstrously murderous threat to intellectuals "…. I would like to say it again: We will spill your blood, and we will take a shower with your blood!”
Yeni Akit daily--notorious for its IS type ideology--has published the complete list of the signatories, accusing them of treason. Yonter, the Opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP)’s Istanbul Deputy, has gone so far to call universities as ‘home to terrorists,” advising the government to take a similar fight like the one carried out in Sur, Cizre, Dargecit, and Silopi “against the terrorists in universities.”
The Academics for Peace Petition was merely a symbolic gesture in defense of peace and freedom of expression. More and more academicians, journalists, and human rights activists are becoming victims of AKP’s venomous propaganda and its witch-hunt every day.
As a result of the Academics for Peace initiative, the world now knows more about the magnitude of the oppression and repression in Turkey. Erdogan continues to justify the persecution of academicians by denouncing them as “cruel” and “despicable.”
Beyond the need for more academic communities to join the solidarity movement with academicians in Turkey, the international community should stop the Turkish government’s assault on academic freedom.
The U.S and the European Community can also do more than simply expressing their disapproval of such actions by exerting pressure on the Turkish government to both halt the persecution of the academicians and resume the peace process before more academicians are victimized and more people are killed in the name of AKP’s Turkish Nation.
Dr. Amir Sharifi is a professor at California State University, Long Beach.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of Kurdistan24.