We, the Executive Committee of ASSITEJ, the International Association of Theatre for Children and Youth, denounce the recent dismissal of seven theatre professors from the Theatre Department of Ankara University. What these professors have in common has been to exercise their right to freedom of speech, by signing a peace declaration which was part of the Academics for Peace Initiative (Barış için Akademisyenler). It looks that, for this act they have been expelled from working for any government department, on the basis of being connected with or being members of or partaking in acts of terror.
This action of expulsion is not only based on a ludicrous premise, but is also a direct assault on the basic human and academic freedoms of these professors, the right to freedom of speech, thought and expression, and will impact significantly not only on them personally, but also on the academic project at their university, and on higher education in the country more generally. The signatories of the petition are advocates for peace, democracy and justice. Their suspension is unlawful, unjust and undemocratic.
The Theatre department professors are Prof. Dr. Selda Berk Öndül, Prof. Dr. Tülin Sağlam, Prof. Dr. Beliz Güçbilmez, Dr. M. Elif Çongur and the research assistants Ceren Özcan and Şamil Yilmaz. They have been exported from duty by the new Decree-law No 686. With Assoc. Prof. Dr. Süreyya Karacabey, who had been exported before by the Decree-Law No. 679, now seven academics from the Ankara Theatre Department have been expelled from work in government offices.
These academics are well-known internationally. For example, Prof. Dr Selda Berk Öndül is a leading member of IATC, the International Association of Theatre Critics, while Prof. Dr. Tülin Sağlam has been an active member of ASSITEJ, and a leader and board member spearheading the development of the International Theatre for Young Audiences Research Network over a number of years. She is universally celebrated for her energy, commitment and intellectual rigour. They are all respected professionals whose excellent work has resulted in Ankara University’s Theatre Department being admired both nationally and internationally.
As an international association with members in more than 100 countries of the world, we wish to declare our joint commitment to advocating for the basic rights and freedoms of all those working in higher institutions, who are responsible for ensuring that future generations will have access to and understanding of the arts. We fear that these actions taken by Ankara University are related to a larger effort of purging of all dissenting voices in academia in Turkey, which started last year.
We therefore join with the Members of the Theatre Department, Faculty of Letters of Ankara University, in demanding that this situation is resolved, and that the professors are returned to their posts immediately.
Signed 13 February 2017
Yvette Hardie, President – South Africa
Marisa Gimenéz Cacho, Secretary General – Mexico
Stefan Fischer-Fels, Vice President – Germany
Asaya Fujita, Vice President – Japan
Vigdís Jakobsdóttir, Vice President – Iceland
Roberto Frabetti, Treasurer – Italy
Razi Amitai – Israel
Daniel H. Fernandez – Argentina
François Fogel – France
Sue Giles – Australia
Nina Hajiyianni – United Kingdom
Imran Khan – India
Diana Kržanić Tepavac – Serbia
Manon van der Water – United States of America / Netherlands