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Noam Chomsky on co-signing Turkey’s ‘Academics for Peace’ appeal

Academics are lining up to support this appeal for peace and express solidarity with the targets of Erdogan’s attacks on freedom and basic rights.

Halis Yıldırım Noam Chomsky
15 July 2019
Academics for Peace in front of the court in Istanbul.
Academics for Peace in front of the court in Istanbul.

In support of ‘Academics for Peace,’ more than a hundred academics, including Seyla Benhabib, Noam Chomsky, Nancy Fraser, Fredric Jameson, Steven Pinker, Michael Löwy, Wendy Brown, Bertell Ollman, Warren Montag and Saskia Sassen, have reported themselves to the Attorney General’s Office in Ankara.

This action started with the court's decision to sentence Noemi-Levy Aksu to 30 month of prison and the beginning of the trial of several notable artists and journalists, including Hrant Dink’s son, Arat Dink, for the same ‘offence’ of declaring their support for ‘Academics for Peace.’ In addition, two other professors have received sentences for their support: Füsun Üstel was given 15 months, and Tuna Altinel was targeted because of his participation in a conference abroad. Many academics from all over the world for this reason have chosen to report themselves to the Attorney General’s office as a means of showing support for all the academics who are currently in prison or due to serve time in Turkey.

Their declaration states that “In solidarity with the more than thousand Turkish citizens who supported the Academics for Peace appeal, we decided to sign it also. In solidarity with Naomi Levy-Aksu, we ask to be considered as co-signatories of this document (the Academics for Peace declaration).” Noam Chomsky who has been in solidarity with the academics for peace from the very beginning, explains his thinking.

Halis Yildirim (HY): Noam Chomsky, why did you reject Erdogan’s invitation to visit Turkey in 2016, and why have you now reported yourself to the Turkish prosecutor in order to support these academics?

Noam Chomsky (NC): I rejected his invitation because I saw no reason to honor his request. It had nothing to do with reporting to the prosecution. I have happily accepted many other invitations to Turkey, including one to attend the trial of Fatih Tas, translator of a book of mine that included some material on Turkey’s terrible crimes against Kurds in the 1990s. At the suggestion of his lawyer, Osman Baydemir, I insisted on being a co-defendant.

HY: Fatih Taş, who had been accused of separatism in Turkey for translating your book, was acquitted of the charge. You then reported yourself to the Turkish courts, becoming “guilty” in order to be in solidarity with the academics. What made you take the decision to be in solidarity with them?

NC: It is a gesture that expresses solidarity with the targets of Erdogan’s attacks on freedom and basic rights; condemns the utter absurdity of the charge of “supporting terrorism” for an appeal for peace; and more generally opposes the harsh and repressive policies of the Erdogan regime.

HY: Concurrently, Turkey is engaged in various provocations in and around the country. Turkey continues to support reactionary forces in Syria in order to maintain its Afrin occupation, for example, and Northern Cyprus is still under the control of Turkey. Is there a connection between this “aggressive external politics” and restrictions on academic freedom and freedom of expression in Turkey?

NC: As a matter of logic, domestic and international policies are distinct, but both flow from the authoritarian and reactionary principles that are manifest in the Erdogan regime, which is reversing the very real and admirable progress made in Turkey in the first years of this millennium.

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