As academics concerned with the recent developments in Turkey, we stand in solidarity with the people peacefully protesting to protect Gezi Park in Taksim, and we condemn the excessive police brutality that was inflicted on them.
What started on Monday, May 27, as a movement to peacefully protest the demolition of a public park and its replacement with a shopping mall, has turned into a mass struggle of people in Turkey for human rights, for freedom of expression, and for direct democracy. Throughout the past ten days, hundreds of thousands of people have joined the movement in many cities across Turkey. The immense violence practiced by the Turkish police, including excessive use of water cannon, pepper spray, rubber bullets, and batons cannot be justified in any way. Such violence has caused three confirmed deaths and left at least 5000 injured, as well as thousands affected by tear gas. The detention and blacklisting of thousands of people for expressing their opinions, including those who are charged for speaking out through social media, is unacceptable. Peaceful expression of opinions is a constitutional right in Turkey, much like in any democratic country.
The resistance movement in Gezi Park has created an atmosphere of open exchange and plurality in Turkey –an atmosphere, against which the increasing number of human rights violations, accompanied by a culture of fear and oppression, stands in jarring contrast. We are outraged by these violations. The oppression of women, LGBTQ communities, and minorities, together with the exploitation of the environment, are incompatible with democracy. We hereby reaffirm that the freedom of thought, expression, and conscience, as well as the recognition and acceptance of difference, are essential in any democratic society. It is our duty to remind the Turkish government of its obligations under international law to respect the basic rights of the people –the rights people in Turkey are defending with their lives.
We also condemn the silence, inconsistency, and bias of the mainstream media in Turkey. The people of Turkey have the right to a free press and the right to fully follow these events, in which thousands of people partake.
We as academics and scientists concerned with Turkey, reject Prime Minister Erdogan’s discourse that is denigrating and marginalizing the protests. We emphasize that this is a democratic movement. Congruent with the demands of the Gezi Park protestors in Turkey, we demand that Gezi remain a park; that continuing repression and police brutality end immediately; that the constitutional rights of those in custody be protected and their medical needs be met; that those who were taken into custody for exercising their right to peacefully and publicly protest be immediately released; that those responsible for the disproportionate use of police power and those who condoned the violence be held accountable; and that a participatory culture of democracy be established and sustained.
Every day we continue to receive horrifying news from Turkey. Yesterday, June 11, 2013, the police violently attacked Gezi Park. Hundreds of people were injured, with some left in very serious conditions. We are deeply saddened by this situation and we ask the Turkish government to immediately stop the police violence against the peaceful demonstrations in Gezi Park and other places around Turkey. We also declare to the world that the detention of lawyers and their harsh, unlawful treatment by the police at Caglayan Courthouse yesterday is unacceptable. Scenes like those we saw from the courthouse yesterday do not befit a country that claims to have a democratic legal system. We wish the people who have been subjected to violence a fast recovery. We send our condolences to the families of the deceased.
12 June 2013