Three cases have been most prominent in that regard since the beginning of 2016: the crackdown by Turkish authorities on the more than 1200 signatories in Turkey of the petition by “Academics for Peace” criticizing the anti-Kurdish war drive launched by the Turkish government; the crackdown by Indian authorities on students involved in a non-violent campus protest against the death penalty at Jawaharlal Nehru University and Hyderabad University, and an attempt to shoot and kill a professor by groups affiliated to the ruling party; and the savage torture and assassination in Cairo of Italian research student Giulio Regeni.
When they are not tacitly approving it, governments of countries where academic freedoms are better respected and which include most global powers have turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to calls on them to protest against this repression. The worst attitude has been displayed in Italy where the government kept stressing the importance of its economic ties with Egypt while a gutter press accused Giulio Regeni’s supervisors of letting him gather dangerous information, thus resorting to an old worn-out paranoid argument of all dictatorships and tacitly making the student himself responsible for his own atrocious death.
Academic freedoms are a key indicator of the overall status of political freedom and democracy. The acceleration of privatisation across the public higher education system is undermining these freedoms on a global scale. The events described above point to a much deeper and sweeping onslaught on democratic freedoms, which must be halted immediately lest it leads to increasingly tragic events and a most nefarious consolidation and extension of the authoritarian turn in global politics.
We call on the global community of teachers and students to join us in protesting against this most dangerous trend by signing, translating and circulating this statement, and organizing protest meetings in all universities.
Dr. Veli Yadirgi, SOAS, University of London, UK