Academicians in Turkey can now be investigated at the behest of the president of The Council of Higher Education (YÖK) and dismissed from their professions and civil service, after the passage of an omnibus law package through parliament by the Justice and Development Party (AK Party).
The omnibus package will mean that the president of YÖK will wield much greater power over academicians, bringing about the curbing of many freedoms of freedom of thought and speech in Turkey’s academic life and may lead to arbitrary punishment.
According to the legislation, the definitions of crime and punishment with regards to academicians in universities have been added to The Law on Higher Education, which also envisages the possibility of dismissing university personnel from their positions and from civil service.
Also participating in or supporting actions deemed as terrorism activities, participating in or supporting ideological or political activities, and participating in strikes will be punished with dismissal from civil service. The president of YÖK will be able to directly instigate investigations. The punishment will be decided upon by YÖK’s Disciplinary Council.
The move to pressure academics comes at a time when three academics, Esra Mungan, Kıvanç Sevinç and Muzzafer Kaya are currently in jail for signing a declaration to end violence in the southeast of Turkey.
The three academics were arrested on March 15 on charges of making terrorist propaganda. Over 1,100 academics from 90 universities issued a declaration wherein they called on the government to halt the on-going operations in south-eastern Turkey, restore national peace and return to the negotiating table to restart the shelved talks with Kurds to find a peaceful solution to the Kurdish issue.
The declaration frustrated President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the government, leading to retribution against some of the academics. Some of the insults Erdoğan used against the academics include: “so-called intellectuals,” “a flock called intellectuals”, “traitors” and “rough copies of intellectuals.”