Turkey arrests academics critical of Kurdish policy, condemns others including Chomsky

Special to WorldTribune.com

A group of academics who criticized Turkish military action against Kurds in the country’s southeast were briefly detained by Turkish security forces.

The 27 academics were part of a group of 1,000 signatories of a published document critical of the military campaign against Kurdish PKK forces. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan denounced the group, which included U.S. philosopher Noam Chomsky, as “dark, nefarious and brutal.”

Noam Chomsky, left, and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. /Reuters
Noam Chomsky, left, and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. /Reuters

After Erdogan’s criticism of the academics in a Jan. 14 speech, security forces searched the homes of academics across the country.

The document by the academics, published on Jan. 11, accused Erdogan’s government of “heavy-handedness in its efforts to weed out militants.”

“The right to life, liberty, and security, and in particular the prohibition of torture and ill-treatment protected by the constitution and international conventions have been violated,” the declaration read.

“We demand that the state abandon its deliberate massacre.”

The PKK, fighting since 1984 for Kurdish autonomy, is considered a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the EU.

More than 2,000 lawyers signed and published online a pledge to offer free legal assistance to the academics.

“While we may not agree with the opinions expressed by those academics, we are nevertheless concerned about this pressure having a chilling effect on legitimate political discourse,” U.S. Ambassador John Bass said.

Meanwhile, five militants and a policeman were killed in clashes in the eastern town of Siirt, security sources told Reuters. The army said in a statement that 19 PKK militants were killed on Jan. 14 in three southeastern provinces under curfew.

The southeastern towns of Cizre and Silopi, bordering Iraq and Syria, and the historical district of Sur in Diyarbakir province have been under curfew for weeks.