27 January 2016

IFSW supports Turkish social work academic facing detention

IFSW wishes to support our social work academic colleague in Turkey who is facing detention along with other academics following their support for a petition calling for peace and criticizing Turkish military operations in the Kurdish south-east. The document was prompted by a Turkish government offensive against the outlawed separatist group Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, that includes military operations and curfews. Signatories have also received death threats on social media, and have been compared to terrorists by President Erdoğan.

The investigations target more than 1,000 academics in Turkey – known as the “Academicians for Peace” – who signed a petition entitled “We will not be a partner to this crime” – referring to the offensive in the south-east. Among these according to our social work colleagues in Turkey are 27 academics who have been detained (although some now released) by the Turkish government including one social work academic employed by a member school of the European Association of Schools of Social Work (EASSW).

The EASSW has released a statement on the issue indicating that they will continue monitoring the situation and will soon announce a set of concrete actions in support of our social work colleague and in defence of academic freedom. After reviewing the case the Association has come to the conclusion that this is a grave violation of academic freedom, stating:

“We are following the events very closely and we are in constant communication with our Turkish colleagues. Our solidarity with academics from Turkey, who try to do their academic work in a very challenging and increasingly dangerous environment, is unconditional and solid.”

Amnesty International has also expressed its concern at the detention and harassment of these academics as an ominous marker of the precarious state of human rights in Turkey, indicating that they have as much right as anyone else to exercise their right to freedom of expression, without being branded as terrorists and menaced with arrest.

The academics are being investigated under laws prohibiting “making propaganda for a terrorist organization” as well as laws against “denigrating the Turkish nation”.

IFSW calls on the Turkish authorities to cease harassment and investigation of academics whose role in any society should be to debate and critique government policy – and to release our academic colleague.

 Nigel Hall

IFSW HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSIONER