Arrest and Detention of Muge Tuzcuoglu Charged under Anti-Terror Law Linked to Support of Kurdish Rights

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
Office of the Prime Minister
Başbakanlık
06573 Ankara, Turkey
Via facsimile +90 312 417 0476

Dear Prime Minister Erdoğan:

I write  on behalf of the Middle East Studies Association (MESA) of North America and its Committee on Academic Freedom (CAF) in order to express our dismay and concern over the March 8th arrest and detention of anthropologist, journalist and independent researcher Müge Tuzcuoğlu who was later charged under the Anti-Terror Law on grounds that her attendance at training workshops (Siyaset Akademisi) organized by the BDP (Barış ve Demokrasi Partisi-Peace and Democracy Party) and her presence at two public demonstrations in support of Kurdish rights allegedly link her to the PKK  (Partiya Karkerên Kurdistan- Kurdistan Workers’ Party).

MESA was founded in 1966 to promote scholarship and teaching on the Middle East and North Africa. The preeminent organization in the field, the Association publishes the International Journal of Middle East Studies and has nearly 3000 members worldwide MESA is committed to ensuring academic freedom and freedom of expression, both within the region and in connection with the study of the region in North America and elsewhere.

Tuzcuoğlu is a respected anthropologist and author, well known for her monograph Ben Bir Taşım, an ethnography based on her research on children affected by civil conflict in southeastern Turkey. She has been based in Diyarbakır for over five years, during which time she has conducted additional research on prison conditions for juveniles arrested in connection with their advocacy for Kurdish rights. Tuzcuoğlu was arrested on the grounds that her attendance at lectures organized by the BDP and her presence at two demonstrations establish her links to the PKK. Her arrest prevents her from exercising her academic freedom in conducting research on prison conditions for juvenile detainees. Further, the fact that the indictment issued against Tuzcuoğlu is based on non-violent attendance at events, including educational and political meetings, is a violation of her basic right to freedom of thought.

Tuzcuoğlu has not been accused of using violence, nor has she ever endorsed its use, either publically or in her scholarship or journalism. She appears to have been targeted for having exercised her right to freedom of expression and association, which is protected by Turkey’s consent to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, and the Final Act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

A letter was sent to you on behalf of CAF by my predecessor, Suad Joseph, in November 2011 about the case of Professor Büşra Ersanlı, whose right to academic freedom was similarly violated by your government. Actions such as these make it appear that the Turkish government has undertaken a campaign to inhibit the dissemination of knowledge about the conditions affecting the Kurdish community in the country. Government efforts to silence scholars who voice support for the rights of Kurdish citizens in Turkey send a chilling message to Turkey’s scholarly community, Kurdish communities in Turkey and beyond, and to scholars working on the region wherever they may be based. We are very concerned about what seems to be a clear and ongoing campaign to arrest those who seek a peaceful political solution to the Kurdish problem.

I respectfully ask you to intervene in the case of Müge Tuzcuoğlu to see that she is released and that all charges are dropped. I also urge you to take note of mounting international condemnation of the erosion of democratic rights and freedoms in Turkey.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.  I look forward to your positive response.

Sincerely,

Fred M. Donner
MESA President
Professor of Near Eastern History, University of Chicago

cc: 

Türkiye Cumhuriyeti Cumhurbaskani, Abdullah Gül (Turkish president)
Türkiye Büyük Millet Meclisi Baskani Cemil Çiçek (President of the Turkish National Assembly)
Turkish Justice Minister, Adalet Bakani Sadullah Ergin

UPDATE: Müge Tuzcuoğlu released September 25, 2012, after being detained for 7 months. Turkish link: http://www.bianet.org/bianet/insan-haklari/141068-muge-tuzcuoglu-dahil-9-tahliye

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