Turkey had seen an increased mobility in the campuses when over 1100 academics from across the country had got together to sign a petition calling for peace. Quickly they were declared as traitors and recently three academics, Dr. Esra Mungan, Dr. Muzaffer Kaya, Dr. Kıvanç Ersoy were arrested, waiting for trial in the Bakırköy Prison in Istanbul.
As of March 21, Evrensel reporter, Mithat Fabian Sözmen, wrote that after three days at the short stay unit, Dr. Mungan has been put in a solitary confinement cell with 1.5 hours of air time during the day, without any chance of seeing another face. The solitary confinement cells are located in the branch of the prison where inmates are allowed visitors only once a month. Dr. Mungan had previously written letters to her students and fellow academics from prison on the note pads of visiting politicians and lawyers, where she had explained that they read a lot.
University Stands with Academics
Dr. Mungan teaches cognitive psychology at one of the most prestigious universities in Turkey, Bosphorus University, which was founded in 1863 as Robert College. The university president, Gülay Barbarosoğlu, led the senate on the nights of March 17th, and on March 18th, the university came up with a statement:
For the first time in its history, a Bosphorus University professor has been arrested. Dr. Mungan has been accused of “propagating for terrorist organization.” We find this accusation unacceptable. Our colleague Dr. Mungan’s place is not prison but in the campus halls, where she has been teaching and researching for 15 years.
As Bosphorus University, we have always and under all circumstances had the sanctity of human life as basis and stood up against all kinds of violence. None of our professors have encouraged terrorism, and would not.
Our university, with her students, professors and alumni, have stood up against all steps that harm democracy. The right to free expression and thinking make up the body of this stance.
Where there is no right to free expression and thinking, there can not be a university, no lecture can be given, no research would be carried out and scientific advancement would stop. A climate of violence and terrorism would most effectively and rapidly be defeated at the free discussion atmosphere.
Dr. Mungan and fellow academics, Dr. Kaya and Dr. Ersoy, who have been arrested, and Dr. Camcı, about whom there is an arrest warrant, and Dr. Stephenson, who was deported, have all used their right to free expression, which is under constitutional guarantee.
We demand that our fellow professors be released and that they be rejoined with their students immediately.
Visit to Prime Minister
After the statement, university president Gülay Barbarosoğlu had applied to the chief prosecutor for the release of academics from prison. On March 19th Saturday afternoon, President Dr. Barbarosoğlu also paid a visit to Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu – also an alumni of Bosphorus University – who, prior to his political career that started in 2009 with his appointment as Minister of Foreign Affairs, had been teaching as professor of political science. The meeting ended with impressions that Prime Minister Davutoğlu would closely monitor the process.
Another statement had been made by the University Professors Association that welcomes all lecturers as members. The statement followed “the arrests in our country are a signifier of a very dire course of events. Intellectuals and academics get subjected to investigation, detention and even arrest simply because they made critical statements. As the trials continue with academics under arrest, this application itself has turned into “punishment without trial” mechanism that does not hold even reasonable justification. We demand an immediate release of our three fellow academics, who we believe have been arrested actually for opposing views and other intellectuals who have been subjected to investigations for their articles, statements, works.”
Pro-Government Academics Against Peace Petition
Vice-President of the Sebahattin Zaim University, which is a recently founded educational institute that includes AKP officials, ministers, prime minister and president as its founders, Dr. Bülent Arı evaluated the “Academics for Peace” on a TV program on March 20th. Dr. Arı briefly stated that the real problem of Turkey is the people with education, and that it is the ignorant people that will keep Turkey standing. Dr. Arı also stated that in order to leave a future to next generation, the current one needs to sacrifice itself and die. Regarding the peace petition Dr. Arı stated:
“I trust the judgement of the uneducated ignorant segment in this country. They are the ones to keep the country on its feet, the uneducated, not even primary school graduate, the ignorant people who have not been to university. They would never make such mistakes; how should I evaluate that declaration. They are leading Turkey into the middle of the fire. The educated segment in Turkey, starting from professors and going further back, the most dangerous types are the university graduates. The ones who can evaluate things most clearly are the primary school graduates, because their minds are clear. University and higher is very dire, they can not read the situation, their minds are blurred.
Let’s go back to Ottoman era, Sultan Hamid initiated royal schools where secular education would spread to whole country. Those who studied in those schools, toppled Sultan Hamid. Now when reading rate increases, I become exasperated. I am frankly afraid, I always trust the judgement of the ignorant people. Even in traffic the most dangerous types are university graduates. The ignorant ones abide by whatever you give them in traffic, these ones would not pose a constant threat. Those who can not see the world are those who have studied. The more one studies, the less able they are in analyzing Turkey. We are faced with an imminent disaster if Erdoğan is gone. We are at an undercover war, let’s accept that. We need to sacrifice maybe even ourselves and loved ones, to leave something for the next generation.”