Sunday, April 29, 2012

Newsfeed - April 29

GIT - North America is an independent organization, supported solely by the volunteered time dedicated by its members who are faculty and graduate students working on Turkey.

To sign the inaugural declaration of GIT, please send an e-mail to -- to join GIT - North America, e-mail

Songül's letter from prison

Read the English translation of a letter by Songül Sıcakyüz, a student who is imprisoned at Bakırköy Women's Prison, on our Witness Accounts page.

Uğur's crime: being a socialist

Read the English translation of a letter by Uğur Ok on our Witness Accounts page to find out how a student might spend 32 months in prison in Turkey for simply being a socialist. 

Court story of two reporters

Read about the story of the two reporters one of whom was quickly released from prison while the other was not on GIT - North America.

More on Gülen in the US media

Read the New York Times piece on Gülen via GIT - North America.

Court story of two reporters, one is working for state intelligence service

Ruşen Çakır 
20th of April, 2012
Ruşen Çakır wrote about an imprisoned reporter and the court’s blatant injustice:

I received a letter from our daily’s young reporter Çağdaş Ulaş who was arrested on invalid grounds for ongoing Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) case. He laments about his innocence. In one word it is gut-wrenching.

Cagdaş talks about a conversation with Mustafa Özer, Ajans France Press reporter who were detained for a while and immediately released. Both of them were convicted on the same grounds in the same inquisition.  I quote him:  

“I met with Mustafa Özer, where I was put in a cell at Court House to wait for the prosecutor. He told me that he went to Kandil[1] many times, he was taken many pictures with Murat Karayılan under the posters of Abdullah Öcalan and he said all these photos can be found in his computer’s hard disk. He was very anxious and saying that “I will definitely be arrested.” I told him that I felt upset to be arrested for nothing, just due to a talk I made with someone, I was not related with the organization and I reported many times critically about the PKK. Upon this, he said “don’t worry, you did nothing, you are the one to be released first.” However, it didn’t come true. He was released first, I am still in prison!”

We know why the court immediately released Özer, as he has been working for State Intelligence Department (MIT) for years. He was in relation with PKK and its entourage and he worked in MIT's command. But we haven’t understood the reason for Cağdaş’s arrest and his long detainment yet. We need to go beyond submissive requests for justice. As his colleagues we must mobilize against state’s arbitrary journalist arrests on the pretence of terrorist activity.   

Read Ruşen Çakır in Turkish here
For Mustafa Özer's confession visit here 

[1] Kandil is the name of a mountain range near the Turkey-Iraq-Iran tripoint, where the armed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) is known to be based (Translator’s note).

More on Gulen in the US media: A NYT Piece by Dan Bilefsky

Following other pieces that have appeared over the last month in the US mainstream media on the charter schools established and run by the followers of the Turkish imam M. Fetullah Gulen, Dan Bilefsky published a piece in the New York Times, which focuses more on the growing influence of this "reclusive cleric" in Turkey. His comprehensive piece that ties the case of Ahmet Sik and his work on the Gulen community and their global agenda, to the perception and critique of the movement by other intellectual and academic communities, as well as journalists in Turkey. To read the piece visit here.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Newsfeed - April 22

GIT - North America is an independent organization, supported solely by the volunteered time dedicated by its members who are faculty and graduate students working on Turkey.

To sign the inaugural declaration of GIT, please send an e-mail to -- to join GIT - North America, e-mail

What is a Turkish Imam Doing in North Philadelphia?

The Inquirer reported last spring that federal agencies are investigating whether some Turkish charter-school employees are required to kick back part of their salaries to a Muslim movement founded by Gulen known as Hizmet, or Service, according to knowledgeable sources. Read more about the case  by Martha Woodall of the Philadelphia Inquirer on the allegations raised over North Philadelphia charter school run by the followers of a Turkish imam via GIT North America.
You were right after all. The shame is ours.

Read Yildirim Turker’s commentary on the recent KCK arrests, the AK Party government’s judiciary  and the September 12 politics via GIT North America. 

Prison Letters 

Read the letters from Aysel Diler and Sevcan Goktas, two students in prison among many others, on GIT North America's Witness Accounts.
These letters are responses to the cards they received from Baki Tezcan, a GIT – North America member on research leave in Turkey, where he had participated at the Prison Lectures on March 3, 2012, at the end of which the audience wrote cards to the women students held at the Bakırköy Women’s Prison and elsewhere.  
Two letters from Aysel

After receiving this first letter from Ms. Diler, Tezcan wrote a letter to her to which she responded in her second letter. The letters were translated into English by Tezcan. Read it on GIT North America's Witness Accounts.

 A letter from Sevcan

This letter was translated into English by Zeynep Oğuz based on the Turkish text transcribed by Tezcan. You can read the Turkish version of the text on Bianet and the English version on GIT North America's Witness Accounts. Sevcan's case was very well known and followed closely. Two members of parliament from the Republican People's Party Veli Ağbaba (Malatya) and Hüseyin Aygün (Tunceli) attended some of the proceedings and protested the handling of the case. You can read Turkish coverage of the case in two articles on Bianet.

What is a Turkish Imam Doing in North Philadelphia?

"Truebright Science Academy Charter School in North Philadelphia is one of more than 130 charter schools nationwide run by followers of the Turkish imam M. Fetullah Gulen, and federal officials have put it under a microscope. [...]

The Inquirer reported last spring that federal agencies are investigating whether some Turkish charter-school employees are required to kick back part of their salaries to a Muslim movement founded by Gulen known as Hizmet, or Service, according to knowledgeable sources.

They also are trying to determine whether the schools are abusing the H1-B visa program, which has allowed hundreds of Turkish teachers, administrators, and other staffers to work in charter schools.
The visas are used to attract foreign workers, especially with math, science, and technology skills for which there are shortages of qualified Americans. [...]

After The Inquirer reported last year that records showed uncertified, foreign-born teachers were paid more than their certified American counterparts, at least nine filed discrimination complaints with the EEOC.
One American teacher said she never imagined she would be lodging a complaint in her own country alleging discrimination based on national origin. [...]"

In related news, "[t]he U.S. state of Tennessee has passed a new law limiting the number of foreign teachers at charter schools in an apparent reaction to educational institutions linked to Gulen Community led by Turkish religious leader Fethullah Gulen," according to a report on Hurriyet Daily on April 18.The report states that "[t]he law decreases the percentage of foreign teachers that can be employed in a charter school from 10 percent to 3.5 percent."

To read the thorough piece in the Inquirer, visit here. To read the report on new law in the state of Tennessee visit here.

You were right after all. The shame is ours.

Yildirim Turker[1]

The AK Party judiciary--apparently newly “liberated” from the yoke of politics--has made yet another decision that will be left to posterity as a shameful page in judicial history. Judging by the fact that the prime minister [Tayyip Erdogan] has praised this move as the guardian of an independent judiciary, it is clear that the government is accountable for this final play. As a matter of course, it is impossible to overlook that the prime minister is behind the long arm of the KCK police investigations.[2]

According to the prime minister, three quarters of those protesting are ‘so-called’ teachers; he has no time to waste with BDP[3] members of parliament, because “they are spineless;” the journalists that have been arrested aren’t real journalists, [and] the military that bombed and killed 34 civilians in Uludere is without fault. As it turns out, we already know who the guilty parties are; The identities of the culprits are no different than 20 or even 40 years ago.

The mentality of the police in this country has been as unchanging as their haircuts. Did you really think that the officers responsible for beating Ahmet Turk would be identified and charged? If you did, then you must be one of those die hard “yetmez ama evet” supporters.[4] I do not know how to respond to those who still attach any hope to [the identification and prosecution of those responsible for the assault on Ahmet Turk]. The prime minister said of Ahmet Turk: “He insolently fought with the police, and then [his supporters] say, ‘they assaulted a member of parliament.’ You are the ones who are fighting with the police, and inciting mobs to attack them. Security forces withstand this up to a point, and then they have to react to protect themselves.” How can one harbor any hope of justice after such a statement? The same smug approval that lies beneath the punches thrown at Ahmet Turk are behind the KCK indictments.

In order both to justify the government violence that showed itself as a result of the ban on Newroz celebrations this year, as well as to intimidate us so-called misguided journalists, the prime minister has stood by the police, saying, “We know what we’re doing. Don’t talk out of turn about things you know nothing about.” The prime minister accused those who opposed his pro-force approach of not knowing the real facts about the Kurdish political movement. After the ravenous arrests following the KCK investigations, the ruling party created an exclusive club of sorts with the partisan media, leaving everyone who disagreed with them out of the picture. Claiming that bailing out Ersanli and Zarakolu was foolishness, [those in charge] told us, “Just wait, and see what will happen.” Respectable men of letters rejoiced when the September 12 hearings started as if to say, “I told you so.” This is why they had voted this government into power in the first place. They are still trying to spite us with their adolescent bullying.

How has the attempt to prosecute two of the generals involved in the September 12 military coup changed our lives for the better? How is the current judiciary’s a priori determination of guilt any different from the mechanism of power that was set into place after the coup? So much of our lives have been spent exercising caution [against potential conspiracies]: Decoding secret messages, manipulating the logo on a pack of cigarettes to discover that it looks like the bust of Mao, seeing a hammer and sickle cleverly disguised on municipal services logos; keeping our eyes open at every turn in order not to be deceived by the alien-communist-separatist-sectarian agents in society. The first indictment that came at the end of the KCK trials was unanimously passed by the Criminal Court. The honorable justice was clearly not concerned with using the dispassionate language of the law. He apparently had decided for all of us, and let us know his verdict: “... Anyone who has read the document called the KCK Charter would consider it to be state constitution.”

But this is not all. Demonstrating a level of creativity that even surprised those who were wondering how Ragip Zarakolu’s arrest would be explained, the justices said:
“In spite of the fact that the teaching in question appears only to have been an innocent and humanist activity, it fulfilled a terrorist organizations logistical and manpower needs. For example, any individual may buy a cell phone from a store or purchase nails to repair his house. These activities may in turn be regarded as the fulfillment of normal and human needs. But as the PKK/KCK terrorist organization often does, one could use a cell phone to detonate a bomb remotely that has been reinforced with nails to cause maximum damage. And if such an individual is caught while buying such a cell phone or nails in order to be used in the preparation of such an explosive, there is obviously no need to prove that the individual in question is guilty of aiding and abetting the terrorist organization. It is clear that the suspect [Zarakolu] is guilty of an identical contribution to a terrorist organization...”

Now do you understand the charges against Zarakolu? Supposedly Zarakolu’s son Cihan Deniz Zarakolu taught a class on the origins of the universe at Siyaset Akademisi. Even the parts of the lesson about dinosaurs were presented as evidence against the younger Zarakolu in court. In other words, if there are no nails, then dinosaurs will have to do.

But this is nothing. Previously unremarkable activities such as owning and keeping red and yellow bandanas in one’s house, attending quantum physics class, and commiserating with a friend over the phone over his bad luck are listed as if they were the most abominable crimes. It turns out we were ignorant of many facts about Zarakolu, Ersanli and many others under arrest. We speak out of turn, and anger our prime minister who reckons that Ahmet [Sik]’s book is a bomb. Shame on us: We brazenly said they would never prosecute those involved in the 12 September coup. Well, they sure showed us!

[1] This is the English translation of the article originally entitled “Hakliymissiniz. Utanc Bizim,” and published on Radikal Daily on April 8, 2012. GIT- North America would like to thank Han Salzmann for the translation of this article from Turkish to English. To read the original in Turkish visit
[2] Koma Civâken Kurdistan (Union of Communities in Kurdistan). “Operation KCK” is a investigation by the Turkish government into alleged links between Kurdish political activists and armed separatist militants.
[3] Baris ve Demokrasi Partisi (Peace and Democracy Party) is a political party in Turkey with a social democratic ideology and a strong interest in Kurdish minority rights in Turkey.
[4] The slogan, literally meaning, “It is not enough, but yes” refers to a portion of the electorate who voted ‘yes’ in the 2010 referendum in Turkey. The referendum proposed amendments to the constitution passed subsequent to the military coup on 12 September 1980. A portion of those who voted ‘yes’ had reservations about the scope of the measures proposed by the referendum, but viewed it as ‘the lesser of two evils.’

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Newsfeed - April 18

GIT - North America is an independent organization, supported solely by the volunteered time dedicated by its members who are faculty and graduate students working on Turkey.

To sign the inaugural declaration of GIT, please send an e-mail to -- to join GIT - North America, e-mail

Editorial note: This is our last blog post on a Wednesday. From now on, we will post our reports on Sundays only. This is a decision we made based on the data about our readership which suggest that the entries posted on Sundays are read much more widely than those posted on Wednesdays. Please keep following us on Sundays!

Why could one be unhappy about the release of Şık and Şener?

Fredérike Geerdink's blog entry on why she was unhappy about the release of two journalists a little more than a month ago via GIT - North America.

Human rights classes in Turkey's classrooms

Read about an education project that aims to raise awareness about human rights and democratic citizenship in Turkey via GIT - North America.

Selek case to be discussed at a conference in Strasbourg

Read about the conference that will discuss the court case of Pınar Selek, a sociologist
who has been on trial for an explosion that took place at the Spice Bazaar in Istanbul on July 9, 1998, on GIT - North America.

Students forced to paid military service

Read about the new initiative that forces college students to paid military service via GIT - North America.

Why could one be unhappy about the release of Şık and Şener?

Fredérike Geerdink, a freelance journalist based in Istanbul, had written an entry on her blog entitled "Why I'm unhappy about the release of Şık and Şener" on Tuesday, March 13, referring to the release of the two journalists whose pre-trial detention had attracted world media's attention to Turkey. Today we thought that Geerdink's piece could be reread after the release of Ragıp Zarakolu, another well-known name that had attracted international attention to the plight of journalists, professors, publishers, students, and translators in Turkey's jails. This is a good time to remember that there are still more than 100 journalists and several hundreds of students in Turkey's jails. You can read Geerdink's piece on her blog.

Human rights classes in Turkey's classrooms

As a site that is focused on problems with academic liberties and freedom of research in Turkey, we have been reporting very frustrating and often tragic news for almost four months. There have been some positive news in our coverage as well, such as the releases of the journalists Nedim Şener and Ahmet Şık, and the publisher and Nobel Peace Prize candidate Ragıp Zarakolu. Today we are happy to report another positive news item: the Ministry of National Education has launched a project to raise awareness among students about democratic citizenship and human rights in cooperation with the European Union, which allocated 9.1 million euros for the effort. Let us hope that the classes that will be created with these funds will not be electives to compete with the recently introduced elective courses on the Qur'an and the life of Muhammad. For a full report in English, visit Hurriyet Daily News.

Selek case to be discussed at a conference in Strasbourg

A conference is taking place today (April 18) in Strasbourg with the cosponsorship of various French and Turkish non-governmental organizations that is focused on the case of Pınar Selek, a sociologist who has been on trial for an explosion that took place at the Spice Bazaar in Istanbul on July 9, 1998.

Entitled "The Pınar Selek Affair: An emblematic case of the criminalization of civil society and the problems of the judiciary in Turkey," the conference will include presentations by Karin Karakaşlı (author, journalist), Akın Atalay (Selek and Ahmet Şık's lawyer), Oral Çalışlar (journalist) and many others. For a full report in English, visit Bianet.

Students forced to paid military service

The news portal Bianet reports that according to a letter sent by the Ministry of Defense to The Council of Higher Education (YÖK), which has then been conveyed to universities, male students completing 29 years of age have two options in order to enroll or to re-enroll in a school: joining the army for 15 months or paying 15.000 TL as the first installments of the paid military service and getting the related document.

The letter sent by Ministry of Defense relies on the Law No. 1111, Military Law, Article 35/C which exists since 21.06.1927. However, this law was not applied for years and there were no obstacles for men over the age 29 during the enrollment process. Currently, there are approximately 250 students facing this situation in Middle Eastern Technical University (METU) while the number goes up to 450 students at Yildiz University.

To read the rest of the news report in English, please visit Bianet.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Newsfeed - April 15

GIT - North America is an independent organization, supported solely by the volunteered time dedicated by its members who are faculty and graduate students working on Turkey.

To sign the inaugural declaration of GIT, please send an e-mail to -- to join GIT - North America, e-mail

More than 7,000 college students subject to investigations in Turkey

Read about the disciplinary investigations of college students who assert their basic rights of free speech on GIT - North America.

You can take your exam -- for $ 500 and while risking your life

Read about the conditions of arrested students in Turkish prisons on GIT - North America.

Zarakolu engaged in protest of silence

Ragıp Zarakolu, a Nobel Peace Prize candidate, publisher and activist who was recently released from prison after months of incarceration on terrorism-related charges, is beginning a protest of silence to avoid being used to normalize Turkey’s “abnormal” justice system. Read more on Hurriyet Daily News.

Turkey's discrepancy at home and abroad

Read an interview with Susan Woodward, an expert on conflict resolution, peace building and comparative politics, who points out the discrepancies in Turkish domestic and international politics, on Bianet.

You can take your exam -- for $ 500 and while risking your life

College students who are subjected to pre-trial detention have the right to attend their exams in their colleges -- if they pay for the gas bill of the prison transfer vehicle with which they would have to be transported to their colleges.

These vehicles are well known in Turkey as they made the news when one of them burnt down last September with five inmates, who were burnt to their deaths when the two drivers and ten soldiers could not unlock their door (for the news report in Turkish, see Radikal).

If an arrested student is held in an Istanbul prison while her college is in Ankara, the bill she would have to pay might be as high as TL 1,000 (more than $ 500), states the news report entitled the "Prison Diaries of Arrested Students," which was prepared Emiyra Yılmaz for The report (in Turkish) includes other details of the life of students in prison.

Next week, we will publish English translations of two letters we received from students.

More than 7,000 college students subject to investigations

The minister of National Education, Ömer Dinçer, stated that in 2010 and 2011 a total of 7,043 college students have been subjected to disciplinary investigations at their colleges. 4,602 of them have received suspensions while 55 have been expelled from their colleges.

Dinçer's statement was in response to a parliamentary question posed by Levent Tüzel, an independent MP (member of parliament), who represents Istanbul.

Veli Ağbaba, another MP who represents Malatya and is a member of the Republican People's Party, commented that the situation in universities is worse than it had been under the 1980 military regime as university administrations assume the role of judges and punish their students long before courts make any decisions about their actions, which are mostly basic assertions of civil liberties.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Newsfeed - April 11

GIT - North America is an independent organization, supported solely by the volunteered time dedicated by its members who are faculty and graduate students working on Turkey.

To sign the inaugural declaration of GIT, please send an e-mail to -- to join GIT - North America, e-mail

Another journalist and two more students arrested

Read about the arrest of yet another journalist and two more college students, who were reporting and participating at (respectively) the Newroz celebrations in Istanbul, on GIT - North America.

Zarakolu released

Read about the release of publisher and human rights activist Ragıp Zarakolu, who spent more than five months in pre-trial detention, on GIT - North America.

The European Court of Human Rights punishes Turkey on pepper spray use

Read about the sentence of the Human Rights court against Turkey, which has a bearing on the way in which the police deals with peaceful protesters in Turkey, on GIT - North America.

Homophobia in Turkish capital

Read about the homophobic remarks of Melih Gökçek, the mayor of Ankara, on our Hate Speech page.

9 arrested, including an ETHA reporter and two students, in relation to the Newroz celebrations in Istanbul

According to the report in Turkish on Bianet on April 10, Cagdas Kucukbattal, a reporter working for the ETHA news agency was among the 9 people who got arrested in relation to the Newroz celebrations on March 18 in Istanbul. Kucukbattal, who was filming the celebrations, had previously been detained and kept under arrest for 9 months because he covered the protests against the base station receivers erected in the Gazi neighborhood of Istanbul.

The report states that the remaining group of people arrested in relation to the Newroz celebrations in Istanbul, among members of legal political organizations, also include two Istanbul University students Mehmet Akip Bilgin and Eren Yurt.

Zarakolu released

Yesterday (April 10, 2012), Istanbul 15. High Criminal Court ruled for the release of 15 defendants, including publisher and journalist Ragıp Zarakolu, who were being held in connection with the Istanbul leg of the Union of Kurdistan Communities (KCK) case. For a report in English, see Bianet.

Zarakolu's arrest on October 28, 2011, had led to widespread criticism of the judiciary and had also contributed to the growing awareness of Turkey's problems with democracy and human rights.

Professor Büşra Ersanlı, more than 100 journalists, and hundreds of students, as well as some of their lawyers continue to be detained in Turkish prisons.

The European Court of Human Rights punishes Turkey on pepper spray use

The European Court of Human Rights sentenced Turkey to pay 10,000 Euros to Ali Güneş, who was pepper sprayed by the police in 2004 during a peaceful demonstration against the NATO summit in in Istanbul (you can read a full report in Turkish on the daily Radikal).

This is an important decision as it bears on the routine use of pepper spray by the Turkish police against demonstrators, often in student protests (for examples, see two previous reports on GIT - North America).

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Newsfeed- April 8

GIT - North America is an independent organization, supported solely by the volunteered time dedicated by its members who are faculty and graduate students working on Turkey.

To sign the inaugural declaration of GIT, please send an e-mail to -- to join GIT - North America, e-mail 

KCK Indictment Accepted: Prof. Busra Ersanli and Publisher Ragip Zarakolu Charged with "Leading" and "Aiding a Terrorist Organization"  
Read on GIT - North America. 

55 Students Taken into Custody while Protesting President Gul 
Read more on GIT-North America.

Cukurova University Professors Face Harsh Intervention from the Riot Police
Trying to protect the Cukurova University Citrus Gene Garden from being turned into the campus area of the newly-founded Science and Technology University, professors face harsh intervention from the Riot Police. Read on GIT-North America. 

Military Leaders on Trial
Three decades after the 1980 military coup, its leaders are on trial in Ankara. Read more on the trial on GIT-North America.

KCK Indictment Accepted: Prof. Busra Ersanli and Publisher Ragip Zarakolu Charged with "Leading" and "Aiding A Terrorist Organization"

Hurriyet Daily News reported that, on April 3, 2012, a specially authorized Istanbul court accepted the indictment against 193 suspects in the ongoing Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) case, in which prominent intellectuals Prof. Büşra Ersanlı and publisher Ragıp Zarakolu stand as suspects.

GIT North America previously covered the news about the specially authorized Istanbul Chief Prosecutor Adnan Çimen's 2.400 pages indictment which charges Prof. Büşra Ersanlı with “leading a terrorist organization” and publisher Ragıp Zarakolu with “aiding a terrorist organization.” Çimen demands 15 to 22.5 years for Ersanlı and 7.5 to 15 years for Zarakolu. Zarakolu and Ersanlı were arrested on Nov. 1, 2011, resulting in protests from national and international organizations. Zarakolu was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize last month by a group of Swedish lawmakers. 

Pen International also expressed concern at the arrest of Ersanli and Zarakolu and the charges raised against them in the indictment. It asked its members to send appeals  to Minister of Justice, Sadullah Ergin, "expressing alarm at the continued detention of Ragıp Zarakolu, Professor Büşra Ersanlı, Ayşe Berktay, Deniz Zarakolu, and other writers and journalists detained because of their alleged affiliation with Kurdish political parties" and "expressing concerns that the arrests flout international standards protecting the rights to freedom of expression and association as guaranteed by both the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the European Convention on Human and Democratic Rights, to which Turkey is a signatory". To read the complete text of the Pen Appeal please visit their website

In a news report published on April 6, 2012, Today's Zaman reported that the EU also has voiced its concern about the indictment of Ersanlı and Zarakolu. In a statement issued from the press office of European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighborhood Policy Stefan Füle, the EU stated that "the Commission is concerned about the indictment of Turkish academic, Prof. Busra Ersanlı and writer Ragip Zarakolu. While underlining the Commission’s full solidarity with Turkey in its struggle against terrorism, the Commission also stresses that such a struggle must be carried out in full respect of fundamental rights and freedoms. Both the Turkish anti-terror legislation and its interpretation raise concerns in this respect. The solution to the Kurdish issue and to all the problems in the Southeast can only be attained through the widest possible contribution of all democratic forces, and an open and frank public discussion that can be conducted in the full respect of basic fundamental freedoms, such as freedom of expression, freedom of association and/or freedom of assembly.”

55 Students Taken into Custody while Protesting President Gul

According to the daily Birgun, on april 6th 2012, student members of the Turkish Communist Party, Student Collectives and Youth Opposition gathered in Kocaeli University campus to protest President Abdullah Gul who was giving a visit to the university. The police, who had taken extreme security measures around the campus blockaded the student group gathered at door B of the university.

The students who carried placards reading "We don't want Gul at our university" chanted slogans to protest Gul's visit. Then, the police sprayed pepper gas and pressured water on the students. While the police took some of the students into custody the remaining students locked themselves in the school cafeteria. The police then went on and took those students in the cafeteria into custody as well. After about 55 students were taken into custody a group of students started a sit-in protest in front of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. The police besieged these students as well. After having been forced to get on buses the students were taken by the police to Seka Public Hospital for health control.

To read the report in Turkish visit Birgun

Cukurova University Professors Face Harsh Intervention from the Riot Police

According to the daily Radikal, the newly-founded Science and Technology University in Adana claimed the Citrus Gene Garden of the Cukurova University Agriculture Faculty as its campus area and wanted to conduct a ground survey in this area. Professors and academics of the Cukurova University wanted to prevent the survey from being conducted as there are 35.000 citrus trees planted in the field.

The area in question, which is currently in the Cukurova University Campus, is owned by the Ministry of Finance and via a protocol decided by the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Development, Ministry of Education, Adana Metropolitan Municipality and Adana Governorship it was given to the Science and Technology University as their campus area. Upon this decision, the secretary general of the Adana Science and Technology University, Osman Arik, accompanied by 100 riot police, brought caterpillars to the area to conduct a ground survey. Upon the news that the caterpillars will drill the Citrus Gene Garden, some 60 academics, among them Cukurova University Rector Prof. Dr. Alper Akinoglu and The President of the Adana Branch of the Chamber of Agriculture Engineers, Sahin Yeter, came to the area and stood in front of the caterpillars to prevent them from entering the garden.

Rector Alper Akinoglu expressed his frustration: "This area belongs to Cukurova University. We have already appealed to the court opposing the decision giving this area to Science and Technology University. All the drilling and ground survey activities need to take place only after our appeal is finalized and a final decision is given by the court. They came here with the riot police to take our university's land. There is no legal ground with which the riot police could justify their participation in this event. They need to leave now"

The President of the Adana Branch of the Chamber of Agriculture Engineers, Sahin Yeter seconded Alper Akinoglu's views and added: "We all have been trained in this area, we have been conducting scientific research in this area for years. Our students still conduct research here. Once these trees are cut there's no going back from this mistake. Moreover, Cukurova University also shares the ownership of this area. No one can enter this are without Mr. Akinoglu's permission"

After the debate, the riot police forcefully removed the academics from in front of the caterpillars. There happened some skirmishes between the professors, the students and the police. Caterpillars entered the garden protected by a police circle. Meanwhile, two students climbed the windmill in the field to protest the caterpillars.

To read the full report in Turkish please visit Radikal

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Leaders of 1980 Military Coup on Trial

In a case that began in Ankara on Wednesday April 4, 2012, two surviving leaders of Turkey's 1980 military coup, the formal Chief of Staff Kenan Evren, 94, and general Tahsin Şahinkaya, 86, have gone on trial. Both generals are accused for acting against the constitution and state authority. Hundreds of demonstrators gathered supporting the criminal charges against the generals and calling for prosecution of state and military personnel who perpetuated the coup.  Lawyers of victims were affected by the military coup in 1980, demanded the crimes committed during the military coup should be defined as "crimes against humanity". Even if they are convicted the generals are unlikely to be jailed because of their age and health.

The most violent of the three military interventions in modern Turkey, the 1980 coup executed 50 people were executed, 300 were killed in prisons and more than half a million were detained, 14,000 were stripped of citizenship and more than 1,5 million people were blacklisted.  In addition to these, hundreds of thousands of people were tortured, and thousands are still missing. 

Turkey is finally facing one of the darkest chapters of its modern history and bringing charges against the coup leaders is an important gesture toward their victims. However, people who follow the trial closely worry that the trial does not go far enough

Moreover, the current arrests of students, journalists and politicians and government pressure on oppositional groups that GIT-North has been America closely issuing on this blog, indicate that the authoritarian regime persists.

According to Bianet, Progressive Lawyers' Association (ÇHD) chair Selçuk Kozağaçlı state that:

"We may be able to intervene to this case but on the other hand, we stand trial four days a week on other issues. This case can't go on as it is. The current government is a continuation of 1980. The tortures, executions and crimes committed during the coup should be classified as crimes against humanity. The indictment is weak and flawed. The defendants claim that they can't be tried with the system they themselves build. I agree."

For a commentary on the trial in Turkish, visit here

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Newsfeed - April 4

To sign the inaugural declaration of GIT, please send an e-mail to -- to join GIT - North America, e-mail

GIT - North America is an independent organization, supported solely by the volunteered time dedicated by its members who are faculty and graduate students working on Turkey.

Academics working in Turkey launch the "Don't touch my student!" campaign

Read on the nationwide campaign of academics in Turkey to support their students against arbitrary arrests on GIT - North America.

High school student expelled from school for his protest of cafeteria food

Abdülmelik Yalçın, an 11th grader, was expelled from his school for his protest of cafeteria food. Read about this very real news, which might sound like a bad joke to some, on GIT - North America.

The minister's threat to academic research and the environment

Read about the threat issued by a cabinet minister against an academic researcher in Turkey via GIT - North America.

Turkey's scientists stripped of autonomy

Read Julia Harte's report on the troubles of Turkey's scientists via GIT - North America.

Academics working in Turkey launch the "Don't touch my student!" campaign

Turkish academics launched a campaign to support their students who now live under the increasing threat of getting arrested for basic practices related to freedom of speech. Their slogan, "Öğrencime dokunma!" (Don't touch my student!), has been in circulation in various university campuses where college students have been arbitrarily arrested based on fabricated ties that connect students with "terrorist" organizations, some of which had ceased to exist decades ago (see, for instance, this video from Ankara University, or this one from Boğaziçi University). Now these efforts are united in a nationwide campaign that issued its call last weekend and will have a press conference on Thursday, April 5, at 5 pm, in front of the Galatasaray High School in Beyoğlu, Istanbul. You can visit the website of the campaign here and read the Turkish call of the campaign with the initial list of academics who joined the call here. The English translation of the campaign call is provided below.

We are inviting the instructors of all higher education institutions in Turkey to support their students against oppression, arrests, and the resulting disciplinary investigations.

Come and join us so that our voice becomes stronger:

Don’t touch my student!

We have been witnessing arrests, detentions, and trial procedures that have been troubling our conscience all over the country for some time. A significant proportion of this oppression, which has reached a frightening scale especially during the last year, is focused on university students.

Today the number of arrested students in Turkey is increasing almost every day. It is nearly impossible to access correct and up-to-date data about the number of arrested students because of new arrests, releases, and disciplinary investigations. It is not the number of arrested students (which is expressed in hundreds) that has to be dwelled upon, but rather the mentality that tries to discipline – and, if it cannot succeed in doing that, then to eliminate – students. Most of the offenses attributed to arrested students are united under the umbrella of “terrorism.” The fact that the evidence of the offense in this context includes such documents as lecture notes, books, and water utility bills found at homes; such activities as issuing a press release, protesting the Council of Higher Education (Yükseköğretim Kurulu, YÖK), attending to meetings or commemorative activities, all of which are within the domain of freedom of speech and association; and such daily life practices as having a haircut, carrying an umbrella, wearing a keffiyeh, dancing the halay, or selling concert tickets makes this picture grimmer.

Students, most of whom are detained in high security prisons for years, are also struggling to continue their college education, to access lecture notes and books, and to take exams.

The “Student Disciplinary Regulations of Higher Education Institutions,” which is a product of the 1980 military coup, is used as a complementary tool to intimidate arrested students. Many university administrations show great enthusiasm and hastiness in heavily punishing these students with suspension or expulsion from higher education by launching disciplinary investigations about them –in some circumstances– even before they have been subject to any public lawsuit.

Transforming students, who oppose the model that the state finds appropriate for them, who protest, who support different political opinions, or sometimes simply question that which they are expected to accept as given, into suspects or indictees of “terrorist organizations” without concrete justification or evidence; and trying to make them vanish in endless trial procedures and to discipline them with state violence are absolutely unacceptable.

The foremost responsibility of universities, which constitute the location of scientific production based on freedom of thought and expression, is to look after its students. We, as instructors working at all universities of Turkey, are stating that we will not remain quiet against the targeting of our students with practices of arrest and detention that are continuing with acceleration, against their intimidation by the dispossession of their freedoms, and against their disconnection from universities and life. We are thus calling out to the authorities:

We want to be together with our students in classrooms – with all of them present!