Sacked Turkish academics take lectures to the streets

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A group of Turkish opposition academics who were dismissed under Turkey’s controversial state of emergency are finding a way to fight back. In a show of defiance, they are organising “street academies” in parks across the capital, Ankara.

The Turkish government has been waging a war of repression on its political opponents since a coup attempt on July 15, 2016 failed to dislodge President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. According to a tally of official figures from the opposition website Turkey Purge, 7,316 academics have been arrested in purges at Turkish universities.

Some of those arrested are accused of belonging to the movement led by Fethullah Gulen, the US-based Muslim cleric who President Erdogan claims was behind the coup attempt. Other academics were dismissed — or even thrown behind bars — for having signed a petition that called for peace with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a banned militant group that has been fighting Turkish forces in the southeast of the country for decades. Many of these “academics for peace” have fled the country after being accused of links to terrorism.

But a few professors, like our Observer, have decided to stay and fight Erdogan’s authoritarianism. Their options are limited. Protests are banned under the state of emergency that was declared following July’s coup attempt.

One solution is to give lectures in cafés and public parks. By doing so, these professors hope to rekindle the rebellious, progressive spirit that sparked protests in 2013. That year, thousands of people took to Gezi Park in the heart of Istanbul to oppose Erdogan’s increasingly autocratic rule.

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