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Letter to US Government Officials Concerning Recent Events in Turkey

Recipients:

Barack Obama, President of the United States

John Kerry, Secretary of State

Ashton Carter, Secretary of Defense

 July 25, 2016

We write as academics and concerned citizens to express our strong condemnation of the current situation in Turkey. While we disapprove of the attempt to subvert the democratic process in Turkey through the military coup of July 15, 2016, President Erdogan’s response has gone beyond measures compatible with the rule of law and human rights, using the occasion to undertake a massive dismissal or suspension from duty of judges, military personnel, civil servants, university deans, and teachers. As of the most recent news this number has reached nearly 60, 000.

In addition, the Turkish government has suspended the annual leave of more than three million civil servants nationwide, and public sector employees are also banned from traveling abroad. Academics and university researchers are asked to request special approval from their superiors to attend scholarly conferences and other professional activities abroad. During an interview with CNN on July 18, Turkish President Erdoğan did not rule out the possibility of reinstating the death penalty. We fear that justice cannot be done in this situation. There are no checks and balances left; authoritarian presidential rule has taken over and in major military and civil society institutions the ideology of one party is beginning to dominate while opposition of any kind is being crushed. There are reports that those in custody cannot find lawyers, since no one dares defend them fearing to be added to the purge lists.

All the evidence suggests that the coup provided an opportunity for the Turkish government to further restrict the role of the legitimate political opposition and its function of democratic oversight–a process already underway before the coup attempt. Shortly after arriving in Istanbul, on the day after the coup attempt, President Erdogan said “This insurgency is a blessing from Allah, because it will allow us to purge the military” of mutineers. He has gone far beyond punishment of the conspirators, however, to attack any who have ever questioned his policies.

Turkey is a signatory of the European Convention on Human Rights and, as a candidate for membership in the European Union, it has committed itself to the full observance of the Copenhagen criteria, including stability of institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights, respect for and protection of minorities, and abolition of capital punishment. The current crackdown violates all of these commitments and ought not to be tolerated by the EU, by NATO, or by the government of the United States of America which considers Turkey its strong ally.

We, the undersigned, condemn the actions taken by the Turkish government in violation of human rights and the rule of law. The principle of independence and impartiality of the judiciary—together with freedom of the media—is at the foundation of the rule of law and democracy. The political independence and the academic freedom of the educational profession is essential for free societies.

We therefore call upon President Obama, Secretary of State Kerry, and Secretary of Defense Carter to strongly criticize the Turkish government’s violation of human rights, academic freedom and the rule of law and to refuse to accept anything but a reversal of these authoritarian policies.

Seyla Benhabib, Eugene Meyer Professor of Political Science and Philosophy, Yale University

Joan W. Scott, Professor Emerita, School of Social Science, Institute for Advanced Study

Natalie Zemon Davis, Princeton University and University of Toronto

Judith Butler, Maxine Elliot Professor in the Department of Comparative Literature and the Program of Critical Theory, University of California Berkeley

Rosalind Petchesky, Distinguished Professor Emerita of Political Science, Hunter College and the Graduate Center, CUNY, New York

Rudy Fichtenbaum, President of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP).

Vijay Prashad, Professor of International Studies, Trinity College.

Of almost four hundred signatures from US academics.

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