In January of this year, a collection of 1,128 Turkish citizens, 90 of whom were members of Turkish universities, unitarily stood in protest to the Turkish government through a petition entitled, “We Will Not Be a Party to this Crime!” Stylizing themselves as the “Academicians for Peace,” they declared that the Turkish government had forsaken the rights of life, liberty, security, and freedom from torture through its actions in towns such as Sur, Silvan, Silopi, and others in the Kurdish province of the country.
Demanding an end to the “deliberate massacre and deportation of Kurdish and other peoples in the region,” the self-titled Academicians soon found themselves under criminal investigation, potentially facing up to five years in prison for alleged “terror propaganda.” Accused of being “fifth columns” for foreign powers, sympathizing with terrorists, and undermining national security, these signatories quickly became the subjects of threats, intimidation, and potential expulsion from their respective universities.
Situations like these are the reason for the creation of Peace Bloc, a non-profit, non-partisan organization that brings together residents of the United States and Canada to advocate for peace and democracy in Turkey and the Middle East. In an article entitled “A Statement by Peace Bloc on Academics in Turkey,” Peace Bloc extended solidarity to the Academics of Turkey by demanding secession to the policies of intimidation, persecution, and prosecution by the Turkish government against the Academicians. In addition, Peace Bloc called for a reorganization of the Council of Higher Education, in order to preclude influence by political parties or government, renew respect for the nation’s commitment to the rule of law and democracy, protect human rights by international treaties and the Turkish Constitution, and restart the peace process with Kurdish representatives.
With the current political situation in Turkey, international support is needed for local actors who risk challenging the established powers for the sake of democracy, peace, and human rights. Peace Bloc is one of these very advocates, and its solidarity with the Academicians of Turkey could prove vital to the democratic future of the country.