“Supporting Academics as a Human Rights Actor in a Challenging Context” is an ongoing project by the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (HRFT). The project team is composed of 12 academics, who were recently dismissed from public universities due to their involvement with Academics for Peace. Launched in December 2017, the project is scheduled to span over a course of 24 months.

 

BACKGROUND

Universities and academics in Turkey have been facing unprecedentedly severe political pressure for more than two years now. Beginning with the by now internationally well-known “Peace Declaration Affair” in January 2016, scholars who publicly take a critical stance vis-à-vis the resumption of armed clashes in Southeastern provinces have been widely targeted by state authorities and university administrations alike.

The oppression on scholars has evolved into a new phase with the state of emergency following the coup attempt in July 2016. A total of 6081 academics are hitherto dismissed from their posts by state of emergency decrees. 407 of them were among the signatories of the Peace Declaration. The sweeping measures taken against academics include imprisonment, arrests, undue treatment, judicial prosecutions, university-based disciplinary investigations, dismissals and travel bans.

The ongoing oppression on academics has directly and significantly affected the human rights movement in Turkey. Many of the purged scholars, especially those associated with Academics for Peace, were among the supporters of human rights activism in their capacity as researchers and educators. It is, however, no longer possible for many of them to continue their human rights related work in a university-based setting, which, in turn, undermines the overall capacity of civil society organizations in the field of human rights.

This project is part of HRFT’s long term strategy to respond to this challenge.

 

OBJECTIVES

The overarching objective of the project is to contribute to the development and consolidation of human rights in Turkey by supporting academics as a human rights actor in a challenging context.

To this end, the project has three specific aims:

  • to support and empower academics who have been facing political, judicial and administrative pressures due to their work and statements as human rights defenders
  • to facilitate their human rights related research and teaching within a civil society network
  • to increase the overall capacity of the human rights movement in Turkey through a holistic and integrative collaboration model between academics and civil society actors

 

ACTIVITIES

The activities of the project are grouped around three major themes:

Protection & Empowerment

Legal guideline for academics facing human rights violations

Psychosocial support workshops for affected individuals

Public advocacy and newsletters

Education

Public seminar series: “Thinking Through Rights”

Training program for human rights activists

Research & Documentation

Qualitative research regarding the effects of violations on academics

Research study on the unmaking of higher education in Turkey

A documentary film on the academic purge and aftermath