UCU: Defending free speech in Turkey is a top priority for us

Freedom of speech must be defended, lecturers’ union UCU delegates heard yesterday as they vowed to prioritise solidarity with Turkish academics.

UCU: Defending free speech in Turkey is a top priority for us

After the conference of University and College Union (UCU) of England, delegates watched a video message from Turkish union leader Mesut Firat highlighting the purges of academics.

He talked about two sacked academics in Ankara — Nuriye Gulmen and Semih Ozakca — who have been jailed after they went on hunger strike for 77 days in a bid to be reinstated to their university posts.

UCU president Rob Goodfellow told those gathered about his recent visit to the country and meetings with trade unionists and academics.

He said: “When academics and others in Turkey are dismissed, they find out because their name is added to a government list and posted on a website.

“Their passports are confiscated so they cannot leave the country. That’s why our guest speaker had to appear by video.”
Goodfellow explained that according to Turkish unions, it would take 10 years to defend all those who have been sacked or jailed.
“To end up in prison in Turkey, all you have to do is sign a petition,” he said.

The conference called for the suspension of arms sales to Turkey until a peaceful settlement with the Kurdish population has been reached and the purges of opposition voices stopped.

Delegates suggested twinning branches and unions in solidarity with Turkish academics.

UCU international officer Rob Copeland spoke about the union’s work with campaign group Academics for Peace UK and an initiative with Amnesty International which will be “stepped-up” post-conference. (EVRENSEL DAILY)

This news was first published by Steve Sweeney at Morning Star.

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