As scholars and students from Turkey, as well as academics working on Turkey and the Ottoman Empire in North America, we are deeply concerned by the recent incidents that took place at the Middle East Technical University (METU, Ankara) campus on December 18, 2012 during and after Prime Minister Erdogan's visit.
Security forces used excessive force and violence against students protesting peacefully, some of whom were arrested and held in detention. Following the incident, in response to the campus-wide boycott initiated by the faculty and students, the PM made public statements which insulted and threatened the university's faculty. Both police actions and the PM's verbal assaults constitute a direct assault on the university as an institution, its educational role in society, and on freedom of thought. Attempts to label every act of dissent and criticism of the ruling party as "terrorism" must be condemned, particularly when they might influence current policy decisions. That these events took place at a time when a revision of the bill for The Council of Higher Education (YOK, the central governing body for all post-secondary institutions) is under discussion, is very disconcerting.
The METU incident is only one of increasing number of direct assaults on university students and faculty members that leave us gravely concerned for the present and the future of democracy in Turkey. The authoritarian tendencies in the ruling party and the use of both police violence and judicial repression are growing daily. They pose severe impediments to freedom of thought and expression in every domain. We take this opportunity to express our solidarity with academic institutions, faculty members and students in Turkey who face this repression.