A small group of protesters gathered quietly outside the Turkish consulate Monday, holding signs that said “Stop Turkey’s Academic Purge” and “Hands off my prof” to denounce the government’s actions since last July’s failed coup attempt.
Since the summer, Turkey has dismissed or suspended upwards of 100,000 from their jobs, including academics, civil servants and police officers, alleging ties to terror organizations.
Just days ago, police used tear gas to break up a protest at Ankara University in the Turkish capital denouncing the dismissal of 330 academics.
THE LOSS IS THAT MANY OF THESE ACADEMICS WHO WERE EXPELLED ARE EXTREMELY
“The loss is that many of these academics who were expelled are extremely accomplished, well known scholars in their fields . . . which empties Turkish universities and drains an enormous amount of knowledge base and silences opposition and different opinions in Turkey,” said Feyzi Baban, a political science professor at Trent University, who attended the demonstration of about 20 people in downtown Toronto.
“There is no violation of anything by these people,” added Halis Murat Yildiz, an economics professor at Ryerson University, who also participated in the protest.
“Most of them are extremely peaceful, heavily involved in academics but somehow critical of the current government, and it’s a really politically driven decision.”
Hazal Caliskan, a former law student and teaching assistant in Istanbul who came to Toronto at the end of October, helped organize the demonstration.
“I know it’s not big, but at least (it’s) a start,” she said. “To the best of my knowledge, Canada is not really aware of what’s going on in Turkey, so it’s not like Germany or France.”
Caliskan said she hoped to educate Canadians about what is happening in Turkey, so people here can form an opinion that might serve as a push towards some kind of change.
“Turkey, yeah, welcoming refugees, such a nice country, welcoming refugees, such a nice country — but that’s not the case actually,” she said. “So, yeah, we will continue speaking out here, because that’s something we couldn’t do, I mean, not anymore in Turkey.”
The well-being of the country’s democracy has emerged as a matter of pressing concern for human rights groups and press freedom advocates.
“With hundreds of thousands of people dismissed or detained without due process, an independent media silenced and Kurdish opposition members of parliament in jail, Turkey has been plunged into its worst crisis in a generation,” said Hugh Williamson, the Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch in a statement posted on the organization’s website last month.