Turkish police detained socialist activist Chris Stephenson, a lecturer at Istanbul’s Bilgi University, yesterday, Tuesday. He is due in court today.
The authorities have suggested he has been spreading “PKK propaganda”. This is a reference to the Kurdish national movement, which the Turkish state is assaulting in a murderous war.
In fact Chris was seized after he went to court to support fellow-signatories to an Academics for Peace letter who had been detained.
The Academics for Peace appeal was issued in January. It called for a peaceful settlement of the Kurdish question and an end to Turkey’s “deliberate massacre and deportation of Kurdish people”.
Over 1,400 people signed it immediately and with international support including Tariq Ali, Slavoj Zizek, Noam Chomsky, Judith Butler, Alex Callinicos and David Harvey.
The Turkish state reacted with fury. It accused the academics of “terror propaganda” and rounded up dozens of the Turkish signatories. Others have seen their posts terminated.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan demanded action against the signatories. After a horrific bombing in the capital Ankara at the start of this week, Erdogan smeared anyone who supports Kurdish rights as bombers.
“It might be the terrorist who pulls the trigger and detonates the bomb, but it is these supporters and accomplices who allow that attack to achieve its goal," he said in a speech on Monday.
"The fact their title is politician, academic, writer, journalist or head of a civil society group doesn't change the fact that individual is a terrorist. We should redefine terror and terrorist as soon as possible and put it in our penal code."
It is hardly surprising that the police have acted now.
Yesterday the police said Chris had been found with leaflets supporting terror. Actually they were invitations to a Newroz (Kurdish New Year) celebration. They were signed by a leading figure in the legal Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), which has 59 seats in the Turkish parliament
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