In January 2016, more than 2,000 academics signed a strongly worded petition calling for a resumption of the peace process and an end to what they described as the "deliberate massacre and deportation of Kurdish and other peoples" in the southeastern region of the Turkey, where the Turkish military was waging a campaign against militants affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers Party (the PKK).
It was a petition more or less like any other that an antiwar academic might sign. But for the act of signing it, more than 700 scholars have been criminally charged with making propaganda for a terrorist organization, according to data published on the website of the signatories, who call themselves Academics for Peace.
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A letter from the Middle East Studies Association's Committee on Academic Freedom sent to Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on June 11 argued that the variation in sentencing lengths imposed on signatories is arbitrary. The letter notes that under Turkish law sentences more than two years in length cannot be suspended, and says that "at the moment a total of 35 academics are at imminent risk of imprisonment." The letter notes as well the "worrisome development" that scholars who were based at universities outside Turkey at the time they signed the petition have begun to be charged.
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