Academics under attack in Turkey

By EDRi · January 27, 2016

1128 academics from Turkish universities signed an open letter urging the government to stop using curfews to facilitate the violence ongoing for weeks in Kurdish towns. The number of local signatories increased to 2212 by 20 January 2016, including 30 Nobel Prize winners. Moreover, the letter heading “We Will Not Be A Party To This Crime” was also supported by 2279 academics from abroad.

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In response, President Erdoğan publicly denounced the signatories as “nefarious”. Pro-government organisations were accused of starting a smear campaign against them. In addition to an immediate threat of prosecution and sacking from their institutions through disciplinary processes, the academics face possible physical harm from ultra-right organisations and pro-government groups who openly urge followers on mass and social media to “spill blood”.

The requests for removal of such hate speech has been denied by Facebook and Twitter. Alternative Informatics Association sent the following letter to the management of these companies:

“Following the announcement of the Peace Declaration by BAK (Barış İçin Akademisyenler – Academics for Peace, which was signed by many academics and colleagues in diverse localities and universities in Turkey and abroad), a considerable number of hate groups have appeared which identify the academics not the only through their social media profiles, but also their academic titles and universities. A close monitoring of these hate groups’ online activities and false campaigns include devastating cases of defamation and
life-threatening insults on a huge scale. These hate speech alerts cause student revolts against their mentors/tutors, and further create threatening conditions as catalysts for direct targeting of academics.

Faced with this dramatic situation, experts and practitioners in the field including our own members have filed complaints against the main cases of such discriminatory content and hate speech using the interface of your website; however your Management has consistently claimed that there is no basis for complaint/s.

It is a well-known fact that such negative content fuels hate speech against targeted groups, encourages further oppression, legitimises and spreads potential crime. Furthermore, viral content featuring physical assault in university offices of academics, instances of obstruction causing physical and/or psychological damage can also
spread and be legitimised.

With all these concerns in mind, we believe that the targeting of these individuals and legitimising of hate crime with multimedia content on your website may cause serious and massive public harm. As a final significant note, posing as the grey line that cuts across freedom of speech and hate speech, such content may be the basis for hate crime/s. The shared content and posts by these groups already feature instances of “causing harm to property” which is the preliminary stage of hate crime. We call upon your Management to act more sensitively against these mobs that incite hate crime and take mitigating action/s that includes removal of content based on complaints, suspension of individual and/or group accounts pages where necessary.

Alternative Informatics Association”

“We Will Not Be A Party To This Crime” text in several languages and the
list of local signatories:

Supporting academics from abroad:

Announcements and news:
Amnesty International: Turkey: Detention of academics intensifies crackdown on freedom of expression (15.01.2016)

Pen International: Turkey: Arrest of Academics is an Unacceptable Violation of Freedom of Expression (15.01.2016)

European Union – External Action: Statement by the Spokesperson on the situation in the Southeast of Turkey and steps taken against a group of academics (16.01.2016)

The Guardian: Turkey rounds up academics who signed petition denouncing the attacks on kurds (15.01.2016)