The spat was provoked by an open letter to Turkey’s leader signed by some 1,128 Turkish and foreign academics from 89 universities around the world, including Noam Chomsky and Immanuel Wallerstein. It was published last month under the title: “We won’t be a part of this crime.”
The academics’ criticism of Ankara’s military operation in Turkey’s Kurdish southeast infuriated Erdogan, who lashed out at Chomsky in particular.
“Let our ambassador from the United States invite Chomsky, who has made statements about Turkey’s operations against the terrorist organization,” Erdogan said at the 8th annual conference of the Turkish ambassadors that started on Monday. He offered to “host” Chomsky in the Kurdish region.
“If I decide to go to Turkey, it will not be on his invitation, but as frequently before at the invitation of the many courageous dissidents, including Kurds who have been under severe attack for many years,” Chomsky told the Guardian via e-mail in response to Erdogan’s proposal.
The philosopher also accused the Turkish leader of hypocrisy and applying double standards to terrorism, as well as openly aiding terrorist organizations.
“Turkey blamed ISIS [for the attack on Istanbul], which Erdogan has been aiding in many ways, while also supporting the al-Nusra Front, which is hardly different. He then launched a tirade against those who condemn his crimes against Kurds – who happen to be the main ground force opposing ISIS in both Syria and Iraq. Is there any need for further comment?” he said.
The open letter called on Turkey’s authorities to end the “massacre and slaughter” in the country’s southeast and lift the siege of Kurdish towns and cities, while, at the same time, accusing Erdogan of waging a war against his own people.
“The responsibility for the present self-inflicted crisis in the country must lie squarely with Erdogan, who perceives the Kurds… as obstacles to his plan to establish supreme rule for the Turkish presidency,” the open letter says.
“With the sieges imposed on their communities in the southeast, Turkey has effectively declared war on its own people. This current crisis is manufactured and totally unnecessary. It demonstrates once again that Erdogan is a deeply divisive force,” it adds.
Ergodan strongly criticized the signatories in a speech on Monday, claiming that the human rights abuses in Turkey’s southeast were committed by ‘terrorists’ and not state forces.
“This crowd, which calls itself academics, accuses the state through a statement. Not only this, they also invite foreigners to monitor developments. This is the mentality of colonialism,” he said, accusing the Turkish scholars who signed the petition of committing “treason.”
“You are not enlightened persons, you are dark. You are nothing like intellectuals. You are ignorant and dark, not even knowing about the east or the southeast. We know these places just like we know our home addresses,” he fumed.
Turkey’s Council of Higher Education (YOK) has also condemned the petition and promised to launch legal action against the Turkish signatories.
“The declaration issued by a group of academics that describes our state’s ongoing struggle against terror in the southeast as ‘massacre and slaughter’ has put our entire academic world under suspicion,” YOK said in a statement.
The clashes between Turkish forces and Kurdish fighters from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been outlawed by Ankara, have been ongoing since July, with Turkey’s authorities claiming that those killed during the security operation in the southeast were PKK members.
However, according to Human Rights Watch, more than 100 civilians have also been killed during the crackdown.
Curfews were imposed in several southeastern towns due to the security concerns of the Turkish authorities, despite the repeated demands of local residents that they be lifted.
According to the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (HRFT), at least 162 civilians have been killed since the curfews were imposed, including 29 women, 32 children, and 24 elderly people.