Academics for Peace signatories struggling to find steady jobs: report

A report published by the Turkish Human Rights Foundation (TİHV) on Friday revealed that signatories of the Academics for Peace (BAK) declaration of Jan. 11, 2016 are still struggling to find steady jobs.

According to the report 39 percent of the academics who signed the declaration do not have a full-time job, while 14.2 percent work below the minimum wage. The report came after the State of Emergency Procedures Investigation Commission (OHAL Commission) refused to reinstate four academics who were fired for signing the peace petition.

Many of the 1,128 Turkish academics who signed the petition calling on the Turkish government to halt military operations in the predominantly Kurdish southeastern region of the country in January 2016 were dismissed from their positions, sentenced to prison or faced overseas travel bans.

After the academics were targeted by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for having signed the petition, more academics decided to sign it in an act of solidarity, raising the total to over 2,000.

The report said 36.8 percent of the signatories did not have social security. Nearly half of those who were dismissed from their jobs have financial problems and need support. More than half said they had lost their motivation to continue with their academic work.

Turkey’s Constitutional Court had ruled in July 2019 that the right to freedom of expression of the Academics for Peace who were convicted of involvement in terrorist propaganda for signing the petition had been violated.

The OHAL Commission had been criticized in the past for not ruling on the cases of dismissed academics despite the top court’s decision.

The commission was established in January 2017 for appeals against measures taken by the Turkish government during a two-year state of emergency declared in the aftermath of an abortive putsch in July 2016.

The OHAL Commission was set up as an appeals body under pressure from the Council of Europe in order to relieve the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) of a huge workload emanating from tens of thousands of Turkish applicants who couldn’t take their cases to Turkish courts. According to critics, the commission’s role is simply to delay or prevent possible ECtHR decisions against Turkey. The commission is also accused of bias as it is led by former Justice Ministry deputy undersecretary Selahaddin Menteş, who had been openly supportive of President Erdoğan.

As of October 28, 2021 the commission had made decisions on 118,415 of a total of 126,758 applications. It ruled in favor of the applicants in only 15,050 of the cases.

In its Turkey 2020 report, the European Commission raised serious concerns about the ability of the OHAL Commission to provide an effective remedy against dismissals. The report criticized the lengthy review procedures and underlined that the applicants did not have a proper means of defense as the commission does not hold hearings. The European Commission also said the OHAL Commission did not have sufficiently individualized criteria to evaluate the applications.

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