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YÖK cancels work permit of British academic who signed peace declaration

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Turkey’s Higher Education Board (YÖK) has cancelled the work permit of a British academic, Chris Stephenson, who signed a peace declaration which in early 2016 called on the government to halt operations by security forces in southeastern Turkey.

Stephenson, a computer sciences lecturer at İstanbul Bilgi University, announced the news from his Twitter account with a message saying, “I was fired from my job of 18 years. YÖK has cancelled my work permit without citing any reasons.”

Academics and students at Bilgi University have launched a campaign on social media in protest of Stephenson’s dismissal from the university.

Stephenson was one of the signatories of the peace declaration which called on the government to restore peace in the country’s Southeast and return to the negotiating table to restart shelved talks with the Kurds to find a peaceful solution to the Kurdish issue. A total of 1,128 academics signed the declaration, which attracted widespread criticism from the government.

The peace declaration frustrated President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government, leading to retribution against the academics. Some of the insults Erdoğan used against them included “so-called intellectuals,” “a flock called intellectuals,” “traitors” and “rough copies of intellectuals.”

Hundreds of academics who signed the declaration were detained when police raided their homes and offices across Turkey after the declaration was announced on Jan. 11, 2016, while hundreds of them were removed from their jobs.

Stephenson was also detained on March 16, 2016 at a courthouse in İstanbul where he had gone to support three scholars charged with disseminating terrorist propaganda.

The academic was detained when security guards found Nevruz, a spring festival, invitations in his bag. The prosecutor who launched an investigation into Stephenson subsequently demanded his deportation from the country, in which he has lived for 25 years.

The academic left Turkey on March 17, 2016 without waiting for the issuing of a court decision regarding his deportation. He returned to Turkey six days later.

He was acquitted of disseminating the propaganda of a terrorist organization by an İstanbul court in June 2016.

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