Turkey has sought to turn the tables on 148 academics who are facing trial on charges of terrorism for signing a 2016 declaration promoting peace in the Kurdish regions of the country titled “We will not be a party to this crime,” the Guardian reported on Monday.
More than 2,000 signatories from Turkey and abroad advocated in the petition a negotiated settlement to the military conflict between the Turkish state and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), with which Turkey has waged a battle for more than four decades and during which some 40,000 were killed.
“At a time of heavy clashes in Turkey’s Kurdish-populated towns, the petitioners objected to the continuation of violence against the Kurdish people, called for an end to the round-the-clock curfews that deprived the population of necessary provisions, and asked that the Turkish government resume talks with the PKK that the government itself had previously inaugurated. The petition referenced violations of international law and basic democratic principles, and accused the government of ‘deliberate and planned massacre and deportation’,” according to the Guardian.
The indictments, however, accuse the academics of disseminating the propaganda of a terrorist organization in their call to cease violence and comply with international law, citing the declaration verbatim and then concluding without argument that it is a declaration that supports the PKK, in a willful distortion and reversal of the clear meaning of the petition, which in fact calls for a peaceful settlement. Ironically, the word “peace” has become code for “terrorism” in the prosecutors’ eyes.
The Guardian’s analysis explains the distortion of the petition in the following steps: “(1) in calling for the cessation of violence against the Kurdish people, the signatories are taking sides with the Kurds; (2) the Kurds are regarded as terrorists, so taking sides with them is to ally with terrorism; (3) the call for a peaceful solution involves negotiating with terrorists; (4) a call for negotiation with terrorists constitutes propaganda for a terrorist organisation. Thus, (5) a petition to cease violence and enter into negotiation to achieve peace and to comply with national and international laws protecting human rights is nothing more than propaganda for Kurdish violence.”
The indictments thus consider the signatories to have broken the law by “organising defamation campaigns against the Republic of Turkey, its government, judiciary, army and security forces using press and media…” in their accusations of state violence, and those who called for peace rather than violence, who opposed massacres as crimes against humanity, are themselves accused of advancing a violent agenda, says the Guardian report.
Prosecutors claim in the indictments that there were no massacres in the Kurdish regions and that no curfews led to dangerous food shortages, although Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch had corroborated those facts, thus casting the petition as fake news. The proponents of the petition are accused of “spread(ing) false, baseless and malicious news through disinformation and information pollution, target(ing) the Republic of Turkey, its government, its army and security forces” and of making “war” through the media.
“Curiously, the call to include international observers to make sure human rights are honoured and to participate in peace talks is interpreted in the indictment as ‘an assault’ on Turkish state sovereignty,” says the Guardian, noting that this line of thinking began when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan condemned the petition’s call for international observers as the product of a “mandatist” mentality.
The declaration was signed by more than 2,000 intellectuals from both inside and outside Turkey, including US philosopher Noam Chomsky, and led 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. The 148 signatories to be tried into 2018 face prison sentences of up to seven-and-a-half years.