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Volume 53 Number 1 Winter 2020
Edited by Susan M. Wolfe, Susan Wolfe and Associates
News shared by Serdar Değirmencioğlu
October 22, 2019, American Psychological Association
APA strongly upholds the principles of free and open discussion and free circulation of scientists and academics.
The American Psychological Association supports psychologists and other academics in Turkey who signed the Academics for Peace petition, and reiterates its commitment to academic freedom, the free and responsible practice of science, and freedom of speech.
We fear these rights are at risk because of what appear to be prosecutions of academic signatories that are motivated by political efforts to stifle free expression, scholarly research and critical inquiry.
The Academics for Peace petition, published in January 2016, opposes a decision by the Turkish president to stop peace talks and begin a military campaign against ethnic Kurds in Turkey. Hundreds of academics, including psychologists, have faced criminal charges associated with being signatories of the petition, including “propagandizing for a terrorist organization.” APA welcomes the recent acquittal of Serdar Değirmencioğlu, the president of APA’s Div. 48: The Society for the Study of Peace, Conflict and Violence. However, many other academics face the very real threat of imprisonment, leading some to seek refuge in other nations. Others do not have this option, as their passports have been canceled or seized, leaving them to face unemployment, underemployment and continued political threats in Turkey.
Based on APA’s resolutions on the free and responsible practice of science, freedom of movement of scientists, and APA international engagement (2016), along with APA’s earlier policy on support for the rights of psychologists in other countries (1980), we strongly uphold the principles of free and open discussion and free circulation of scientists and academics. We believe that psychologists and other scholars have the right to express their viewpoints peacefully, without being subject to sanction.
We hope that academic freedom and freedom of speech will prevail, and that academics in Turkey will be able to carry out their scholarship and teaching in an environment conducive to constructive dialogue and the advancement of knowledge.
Maria Joao Vargaz Moniz, Psychologist, Professor of Community Psychology and President of the European Community Psychology Association, ISPA – Lisboa, Portugal
Editor’s Note: This statement was released just before Dr. Değirmencioğlu’s hearing.
We write on behalf of the European Community Psychology Association (ECPA) to express our concern about the prosecution of scholars who signed the declaration “We will not be a party to this crime”—commonly referred to as the “Academics for Peace Petition.” Since the Academics for Peace Petition was published in January 2016, 610 academics have been required to appear in court on various charges associated with being signatories of the petition. Of this group, a large number have been given suspended sentences for a duration of less than two years, most have been sentenced to 15 months in prison. The remainder who have been sentenced have received prison terms of longer than two years. Sentences exceeding 24 months may not be suspended so this latter category face the real possibility of imprisonment.
Among those academics being tried in court is Dr. Serdar M. Değirmencioğlu, with the charge of “propagandizing for a terrorist organization.” Dr. Değirmencioğlu has been in exile since July 2016 and his trial is continuing in his absence at the 30th Heavy Penal Court in Istanbul. Dr. Değirmencioğlu was a professor of psychology in Istanbul when he was fired in April 2016 for having signed the Academics for Peace Petition. In February 2017, he was banned from public service for life. His passport was revoked in December 2017. Dr. Değirmencioğlu is a well-known community psychologist and a founding member of ECPA. He has served as president of our organization and is currently president of the Society for the Study of Peace, Conflict & Violence (Peace Psychology).
On September 11, the fourth hearing in Dr. Değirmencioğlu’s trial will be held. In a recent decision, the Constitutional Court of Turkey has ruled that the “Academics for Peace Petition” should be considered under freedom of expression. It has, therefore, become clear that the charges against him are baseless and should be dropped immediately. We urge the authorities to drop the charges against Dr. Değirmencioğlu and all other psychologists on trial with similar charges immediately. We urge the government of Turkey to desist from repressing academic freedom and freedom of expression for scholars, researchers, and both undergraduate and graduate students in Turkey. In particular, we call on the government of Turkey to desist from the prosecution of petition signatories and abandon the expansive interpretation of anti-terrorism provisions—extending to many forms of peaceful advocacy—that stifles critical inquiry, scholarly research and political dissent in Turkey.