Acquittal of Turkish Academics is a Victory for Academic Freedom and International Solidarity

(IFUT had attended the trial as an international observer)

IFUT has warmly welcomed the recent decision (10 September 2019) of the Turkish Constitutional Court to quash all charges taken against more than a thousand university academics for the “crime” of signing a peace petition. The decision represents a major victory for the campaign of international solidarity in which IFUT played a very active role.

The details of the case are as follows:
In 2016 1,200 academics in 90 universities in Turkey signed a peace petition condemning the extremely oppressive measures then being deployed by the Turkish state in the South East of the country. The petition was in the commonplace format of a “not in our name” declaration; similar to others signed by hundreds of thousands of concerned citizens and organisations worlwide in opposition to oppression and injustices.
However, the reaction of the Turkish government was so extreme that it generated massive international attention and concern. Thousands of academics were instantly dismissed from their posts. 250 signatories were given prison sentences and 1,182 men and women were sent forward for trial.

The former General Secretary of IFUT, Mike Jennings, was a member of an international team of education trade unionists who attended as trial  observers at one of the earlier sessions of the court case held in Istanbul.
“I have no doubt whatsoever” says Mike “but that our presence in the court room as witnesses on behalf of the outside world had a major influence on proceedings. The judges had been widely expected to convict the accused academics but instead, on the day, they identified a technicality which allowed them to rule that the case should be adjourned”.
In June of this year the Turkish Constitutional Court ruled that signing a petition is not a crime and on September 10th the case against all 1,182 remaining defendants was finally thrown out.

Although this news is hugely encouraging it must not be forgotten that all of these defendants (and countless others) are still sacked from their jobs and are experiencing great hardship.

IFUT, therefore, is committed to continue to express our solidarity with this ongoing struggle. At the most recent meeting of Education International (Europe)’s Higher Education and Research Standing Committee (HERSC) IFUT’s representative, Deputy General Secretary, Frank Jones was jointly responsible for a strong statement welcoming this outcome and expressing strong support for our sister union in Turkey, Egitim Sen ( the Education and Science Workers’ Union in Turkey) in their ongoing battles on behalf of their dismissed members.