The birthday of one of our departmental colleagues was celebrated today, March 22, 2016. We were a day late, and the principal was away. His parents were present, but he himself had been imprisoned without bail since March 14.
It is a charge that could be laid against my spouse and a thousand other Turkish academics, because they all signed a petition saying, We will not be a party to this crime—the putative crime being the besieging of towns in the southeast of the country.
Esra, Kıvanç, and Muzaffer had the temerity to publicly reiterate their stance. For this they were arrested and have been detained, ostensibly lest they flee the country before they are put on trial in a few months.
As I understand the logic of the judge, the original petition failed to condemn the violence of the rebels whom the seiges are intended to neutralize. Therefore the petitioners must support those rebels. Since those rebels are held to engage in terrorism, the petitioners are themselves terrorists.
I did not sign the petition. I would say in its defense that, in a republic such as the Republic of Turkey, the concern of the citizens should be the activities of their own government. If they see their government going astray, it is their duty to criticize it. I am proud that my former student and current colleague Kıvanç takes this duty seriously, and that our common students have shown their support as in the photographs here.
One may debate whether the Turkish government is going astray. This, at the very least, is my own position: one may debate! The Turkish government is suppressing debate, and the government is wrong to do so. I say simply
government here, or perhaps
state, because it is not at all clear that judges in Turkey are independent of the ruling party in parliament or (especially) of the president.
I support a rule of law in which, to the question
Can [even] Donald Trump constitutionally be convicted for inciting violence? the answer is No (as argued by Geoffrey R. Stone in the Huffington Post).
I think the Canadian Philosophical Association was right to argue as follows, in a letter to the Higher Education Council of Turkey excerpted in the Daily Nous:
We recognize that the concept of academic freedom is neither simple nor univocal; it may manifest differently in distinct national or cultural contexts. However, two key observations will be consistent with any meaningful understanding of the concept. First, academic freedom is not something independent of a rich and productive university system. It is not a special right that academics demand in return for performing the research and teaching so critical to sustaining and transforming a modern polity. Rather, academic freedom is a precondition for achieving those results…
The second point to note is that academic freedom is made vacuous by efforts to criminalize academic expressions of informed judgement by people within the university community…