Global Freedom of Expression


Open Letter in Support of Prof. Füsun Üstel and All Other Academics in Turkey Facing Imprisonment for Advocating Peace

March 11, 2019

As members of academic communities around the world, we strongly condemn the sentencing of Professor Zübeyde Füsun Üstel of Galatasaray University in İstanbul to 15 months in prison. Prof. Füsun Üstel was charged with “propagandizing for a terrorist organization” (Article No. 7/2 of Turkey’s Anti-Terror Law No. 3713), because she, together with over two thousand other academics in Turkey, signed the Academics for Peace statement “We will not be a party to this crime,” which criticized military actions in the Kurdish regions of the country.[1] Prof. Füsun Üstel was sentenced last year, but rather than accept the decision and have her sentence suspended, she appealed and the sentence was upheld by the İstanbul Regional Appeals Court on March 3, 2019.

Of the 1387 hearings for signatories to the Academics for Peace statement to date, the cases of 141 academics have been decided. 102 of these academics were sentenced to 15 months; 15 academics to 27 months; 14 academics to 22 months; 5 academics to 18 months; and 5 academics to 25 months or more in prison.[2,3] Of these decisions, 37 were appealed and Prof. Füsun Üstel’s is the first among them to be decided, thus serving as a dangerous precedent. 124 other signatories are currently awaiting their first hearings.[4]

We call upon the Turkish government to immediately suspend the trials of all signatories to the Academics for Peace statement “We will not be a party to this crime.”

We call upon the authorities to immediately exonerate Professor Zübeyde Füsun Üstel and the other 140 academics sentenced to prison for petitioning their government.

We express our solidarity with the academics and students who are targeted by the regime in Turkey for exercising their freedom of speech and academic freedom and we call upon academics around the world to use all available means to support them[5], including freezing academic collaborations with complicit higher education institutions and universities who deliberately target academic freedom.[6,7]

*Authored by members of the Research Institute on Turkey and Academic Solidarity Network and posted for signatures on March 11, 2019. Intended recipients include the Permanent Representative of Turkey to the United Nations and Turkish Consulate General in New York, as well as Turkey’s Minister of Justice, Higher Education Council President, Minister of National Education, Prime Minister, and President.

Join Columbia Global Freedom of Expression and more than 400 other organizations and individual in pledging your support: Read the full letter and sign in support.