Turkish academic receives jail sentence for signing peace petition

A Turkish court on Tuesday sentenced academic Ayşe Gül Altınay to two years and one month in prison on charges of aiding a terrorist organisation for signing a petition calling for a peaceful end to Turkey’s three-decades-old conflict with Kurdish rebels, independent news site Bianet reported.

Another court refused a transfer request by jailed academic Füsun Üstel, who on May 8 began serving a one year and three months jail sentence on the same charges. Üstel, currently in a closed women’s prison in the central province of Eskişehir requested a transfer to an open prison. A criminal court in Eskişehir reversed an earlier decision by a judge allowing her transfer, Bianet said.

The two are among the 1128 of signatories of a petition which criticised the heavy-handed tactics employed by the Turkish army in predominantly Kurdish cities in the country, including long curfews and the use of heavy weaponry. The military operations began after a two-and-a-half year ceasefire between the state and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), negotiated by the government of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, broke down in July 2015.

Altınay, a respected academic from Sabancı University, during her final hearing held on May 21, called for an end to violence and suffering.

‘’Are we going to turn our pain into more violence, hate, pain and injustice, or into steps that multiply life, beauty, love, peace and justice?‘’ Altınay said.

‘’This is the main question that shapes my work and my life,‘’ the anthropologist working in the fields cultural studies and gender added.

Meanwhile, Üstel, a prominent political scientist retired from Galatasaray University in Istanbul, will be able to re-apply for a transfer in three months, according to the court’s decision.

While many signatories of the peace petition have been facing criminal charges, Üstel is the only academic that have been jailed thus far. Under the two-year emergency rule declared following a coup attempt in 2016, hundreds of peace petitioners have lost their jobs with no prospect of working again in Turkey and abroad as some have been subject to travel bans and some have had their passports revoked.