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Peace academics remember dismissed colleague Traş 4 years after his death by suicide

A protester holds a placard reading "Academy will not bow to government", on December 5, 2017 in front of Istanbul's courthouse, during a demonstration in support of a group of academics charged with terror offences for signing a petition almost two years ago calling for peace in the Kurdish-dominated southeast. - Over 1,120 Turkish and also foreign academics initially signed the petition which denounced the actions of Turkey's military in the southeast where deadly clashes had erupted with outlawed Kurdish militants in 2015. (Photo by OZAN KOSE / AFP)

A group known as the “peace academics” commemorated the fourth anniversary of the death of their colleague Mehmet Fatih Traş, who died by suicide on February 25, 2017 in his home after he was fired from Turkey’s Çukurova University, the Stockholm Center for Freedom reported.

Traş was dismissed from his job at the university after he finished his doctoral studies. His employment contract was not renewed.

Traş was one of the signatories of a peace declaration which in early 2016 called on the government to halt operations by security forces in southeastern Turkey, restore peace to the nation and return to the negotiating table to restart shelved talks 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. Many of the signatories have been dismissed from their positions, sentenced to prison or face an overseas travel ban.

The peace declaration frustrated President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government, leading to retribution against the academics.

After the initial signatories were targeted by Erdoğan, more academics decided to sign it in an act of solidarity, with the total number exceeding 2,000.

A total of 7,316 academics were dismissed in the aftermath of the coup attempt on July 15, 2016. Professors, associate professors and lecturers from nearly all universities in Turkey were targeted in the government’s post-coup crackdown.

In July 2019 Turkey’s Constitutional Court said the rights of the peace academics had been violated. The decision was made by Constitutional Court President Zühtü Arslan’s tie-breaking vote. The top court also ordered the government to pay TL 9,000 in damages to each of the nine academics who had appealed.

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