Established in 2012 to advocate for peace, Academics for Peace published the declaration titled We will not be a party to this crime! in January 2016. They have been actively supporting the peace process initiated in 2012 and advocating for peace regarding the Kurdish issue. Following the publication of the petition signed by over 2000 academics, hundreds of signatories were dismissed from their academic positions via State of Emergency (SoE) decree laws; four of them were arrested, and most of them faced legal charges. Currently, in 2024, the media is buzzing with reports of “reinstatement” of academics following decisions by administrative courts; but, this process is far from straightforward. Over the past seven years, academia has had its share of the increasing repression in the country, leading to various consequences. And the process differs for each dismissed academic. We recently interviewed İnci Solak Akman from Ankara University and Esengül Ayyıldız from Çukurova University, both of whom are members of the Aramızda [Among Us] Association founded by feminist academics who were dismissed by SoE decree laws.

Can you please briefly introduce yourselves?

Esengül: In the context of this interview, I can introduce myself as follows: I am one of the two academics who were dismissed from Çukurova University by the decree law dated February 7, 2017, for stating “We will not be a party to this crime!” I was dismissed alongside Taylan Koç from the Faculty of Law.

İnci: I’m a lawyer. I spent approximately 15 years working at Ankara University Faculty of Law. However, on February 7, 2017, I was dismissed under a State of Emergency (SoE) decree law. After a long struggle, I regained the right to practice law. Currently, I am dedicated to advocating for rights, particularly undertaking activities at the Aramızda [Among Us] Association for Gender Research, an association we co-founded with other dismissed feminist academics.

Can you tell us about the legal process you’ve been undergoing since becoming a signatory in 2016?

İnci: Following the publication of the petition, we found ourselves embroiled in a multifaceted and multidimensional targeting and lynching process, particularly by politicians, partisan media outlets, and civil society organizations. During this period, the Council of Higher Education (YÖK) intervened upon a directive it received, instructing universities to take “appropriate action” against signatories. The vast majority of signatory academics working at universities in Turkey were subjected to disciplinary proceedings. I, along with numerous colleagues at Ankara University, also faced disciplinary proceedings. While awaiting the decision after presenting our defenses, the events of July 15th unfolded, and we were dismissed from our public positions via SoE decree laws that were issued before our disciplinary proceedings were concluded. Years later, we only learned about the outcome of these disciplinary proceedings when we appealed to the administrative courts, relying on documents submitted by Ankara University to the court. It turns out that our files including the reports resulting from our disciplinary proceedings were sent to YÖK with a request for dismissal from the profession. While I won’t delve into the specifics of the report here to avoid distracting from the subject, for now, I’d like to emphasize that this report will not fade into obscurity among court files, and we are committed to exposing the actions the university, an institution we are part of, has taken against academics who exercise their freedom of expression.

The AKP government began dismissing, or in more common terms expelling, signatory academics from public office, starting from September 1, 2016, through the SoE decree laws I mentioned earlier. I was dismissed from public office on February 7, 2017, as part of this process. I challenged this both in the administrative court and by lodging an individual application to the Constitutional Court. Additionally, I applied to the State of Emergency Inquiry Commission. The lawsuit I filed in the administrative court was dismissed without examination, and I appealed this decision. The court of appeal overturned the initial decision but decided, based on legal regulations, that there was no need to rule on the case and my file “to be sent to the State of Emergency Inquiry Commission for a decision.” Similarly, the Constitutional Court deemed my application inadmissible due to “non-exhaustion of remedies.” I know that these explanations may seem technical. To simplify, the State of Emergency order, which was established following the declaration of SoE and was in violation of a constitutional SoE regime, closed off judicial remedies against dismissals from public office, an essentially administrative act. The judicial bodies accepted this freak order without questioning the nature of the act, thereby subjecting us to the prolonged State of Emergency Inquiry Commission process, another legal oddity. To elaborate a bit more, when the State of Emergency was declared and dismissal lists were published through the decree laws, there was initially no commission in place. Thus, some dismissed individuals pursued legal procedures in the administrative courts, the Council of State, and the Constitutional Court. However, these courts refused to review the procedures on various grounds. The Constitutional Court even changed its jurisprudence, ruling it lacked the authority to review SoE decree laws regardless of their content! Hence, it’s crucial to emphasize that the judicial bodies also bear responsibility in this process. In the end, the State of Emergency Inquiry Commission began rejecting the applications of signatory academics almost five years later, with most rejections occurring within a short period. And it is evident that this is not merely a coincidence as our files were collectively reviewed near the end of the Commission’s mandate, resulting in predetermined rejections.

In addition to these, a criminal investigation was initiated against me for signing the petition, and I was brought to trial. As the trial progressed, the Constitutional Court issued its decision in the case of Zübeyde Füsun Üstel and others, leading to my acquittal. I could talk at length about what I witnessed during the criminal proceedings, but even though it might seem naive given the current environment, what I truly want to express is not related to the law but morality and conscience. I am exhausted from feeling ashamed on behalf of others.

Lastly, I would like to mention the legal process I have experienced professionally. As a graduate of law school, I embarked on my internship at the Ankara Bar Association to become a lawyer. However, following my dismissal via the SoE Decree Law, the Ministry of Justice initiated a lawsuit aimed at preventing me from practicing as a lawyer altogether, and both the administrative court and the court of appeal ruled against me, as anticipated. Being dismissed from public office and experiencing numerous rights violations is not sufficient for the authorities; they seek to hinder you from engaging in any form of professional activity. Given the judiciary’s favorable structure to fulfill this request, the outcome was predictable. Throughout this process, certain professions and activities such as mediation, expert witness, and notary public, which are typically accessible to law faculty graduates, were banned for those listed in SoE decrees through State of Emergency regulations. And, the Constitutional Court upheld the constitutionality of all these regulations! Years later, through my individual application to the Constitutional Court that resulted in the finding of a violation of rights, I managed to complete my interrupted internship and obtain my lawyer’s license. However, I am still barred from pursuing other activities I mentioned. This is how the fabric of civil death is woven.

These are my experiences, but the dismissed signatory academics and their families have endured numerous violations of their rights, ranging from restrictions on freedom of movement to infringements on the right to education.

Esengül: As you know, after we voiced our objections to all the brutality, or rather, after our voices gained attention, institutions also took action, spurred on by the provocation of right-wing media and its elements in society. Çukurova University promptly initiated action against Taylan Koç and me, and an investigation was opened against us. We first learned about the investigation from the newspapers, when news served by DHA was published everywhere… We received the yellow envelope from the university later. On the day those news articles were circulating, there were also reports of our friends’ houses in Bolu being raided at night. That same day, we received word that “there will be arrests in Adana today.” It was a Friday, and we spent the weekend in tension, anticipating the arrival of TEM (Turkey’s Counterterrorism Unit), but fortunately, they did not show up. In late February, we became subjects of the investigation. The president of the Adana Bar Association, the lawyer from Eğitim Sen, Taylan Koç, and I… My position as a woman among that group of men, the dynamics of our interactions, the room we were in, and the authorities present there, etc., is truly a separate matter. The dean of the Faculty of Law led the investigation. I frequently encountered some of the investigators later on in the faculty housing area… The varied attitudes, from being scrutinized from afar to hearing reassuring words like, “Don’t you worry, nothing will come of it” amused me…

After the investigation, nothing came out of it for about a year. Then, in the second week of July 2017, TEM Adana contacted me, requesting a statement. On July 16, 2017, I went there with five other feminist lawyers and we gave our statements with the most cheerful feminist attitude. It was very enjoyable; the confusion of the police officers and their cluelessness about what to do, along with their deep masculine ignorance, became a cheerful memory for all of us to recount for a lifetime. Of course, the statements given during that time were later included in the files of the lawsuits against all of us…

At that time, Mehmet Fatih Tıraş had completed his Ph.D., and during the subsequent period, he faced tremendous pressure; the courses he was teaching as an adjunct faculty member were terminated. It should be noted that a faculty member named Haşim Akça made special efforts in this regard. The then-Rector Mustafa Kibar sought to resolve the issue without any complications and he sent us a note stating that he would do his utmost to protect us… This occurred at a time when rector elections were imminent, and naturally, he needed our votes.

Then, on the night of February 7, 2017, the names of Taylan Koç and myself were published on the list. My parents were with me at the university housing at the time. They are both Alevi-Kurdish (Kızılbaş) people who had endured the September 12 period with their two young children in a mountain village in Bingöl (let’s refer to it as the eastern border of Dersim), near the school where my father taught and the public housing (which was far from the village; there was a cemetery across from us, and we lived there with the soldiers for a month during that time). My father’s brother was one of those killed on March 16th in Istanbul when he was a high school student. I mean, there are many stories… They remained remarkably calm; my father simply asked, “Do we need to do anything now? Should we make preparations? Will they come?” He was expecting the soldiers and police to arrive and take us away. When I reassured him, saying, “No, we’ve just been fired from our jobs, don’t worry,” he responded, “Oh, never mind then. Wear it as a badge of honor; we are proud of you. Keep your head up”… Their support was invaluable. I was truly lucky. The following morning, I received a call from the rectorate, asking when I would vacate the housing. I had fifteen days to do so. (I had moved there from Istanbul just five years prior.) I hastily sold my belongings at a fraction of their value, sent some to the summer house where my parents lived, and departed from the university housing. I cleared out the room… Eğitim Sen, some friends, and students bid us farewell. As I loaded the remaining belongings into the car and prepared to leave, we received the devastating news of Mehmet Fatih’s suicide. From that point on, everything took a completely different turn…

Then, one by one, we all began to face prosecution. Like everyone else, my case was initially filed in Istanbul. During the first hearing, attended by my lawyers Fikret İlkiz and Fatoş Hacıvelioğlu, it was decided upon our request that the Istanbul court lacked jurisdiction, and the file would be sent to Adana, “where the crime occurred.” Subsequent hearings were held in Adana, with the attendance of a large group of lawyers, including Adana Bar Association President Veli Küçük, HDP (People’s Democratic Party) and ÇHD (Progressive Lawyers Association) lawyers, and my dear friends Taylan Koç, Günal Kurşun, and, in the last hearing, Bediz Yılmaz. I did not accept the offer of deferment of the announcement of the verdict, and if I had been sentenced, I would have had to be prepared to serve approximately four months in prison. Fortunately, this was not necessary, and I was ultimately tried for terrorist propaganda and found not guilty. The verdict was unanimous. Additionally, a nine-page dissenting opinion by a member of the judicial panel, reiterating the absurd statements and allegations made from the beginning, was included in the file. We filed a complaint against that member to the High Council of Judges and Prosecutors, although we did not expect anything to come out of it. Then, we began to wait for the State of Emergency Commission process, but nothing came out of the Commission either.

Have your cases been heard in the Administrative Court? What is their current status?

Esengül: The Ankara 21st Administrative Court issued a reinstatement decision. According to that decision, I was reinstated and the regional court of appeal upheld the decision. If there are no further developments at the Council of State stage, this part of the matter will be concluded.

İnci: In November 2021, the State of Emergency Inquiry Commission rejected my application. Upon this, I filed a lawsuit, and the Ankara 20th Administrative Court requested information and documents from the Anti-Terror Department of the General Directorate of Security of Turkey with an interim decision. Despite the information and documents received being nothing more than newspaper articles, the court rejected the case on the grounds that I had acted on instructions and was therefore connected and affiliated. This 20-page decision, which was prepared in a “printed” form with blanks tailored specifically for each signatory plaintiff, is replete with statements I hesitate to call “arguments” that contravene the law of administrative proceedings in terms of both procedure and substance. Although the decision of the Court of First Instance was issued in December 2022, my appeal was submitted to the Court of Appeal in May 2023, and I am still awaiting a decision.

How do you interpret the varying decisions made by different administrative courts?

Esengül: It is very much in line with the attitude of hatred and spite that has been prevalent in this issue from the very beginning. As you may recall, we were all prosecuted in different courts. For the same act, some of us were dismissed through a state of emergency decree, while others were not; some of us were put on trial, while others were not… Two of us were dismissed from Çukurova University for the same issue: I was reinstated, whereas Taylan Koç’s appeal remains pending with no word yet. This situation clearly reflects a disregard for the law and a mockery of justice…

İnci: We have all appealed against the rejection decisions of the administrative courts. The courts of appeal have not yet ruled on the merits of a single file that the first instance court rejected. In cases accepted at the first instance, while one court of appeal rapidly decides a stay of execution, another rejects the vast majority of the applications made by universities despite the acceptance decisions of the first instance courts. Moreover, while in some cases the first instance courts have not even ruled yet, in others the process is at the appeal stage. Although it is not usual for the judiciary to decide on all cases in the same timeframe, I do not believe it is possible to explain such a difference solely based on the number of cases or the heavy workload.

Since the day we signed the petition, despite the uniformity of our act, we have faced vastly different procedures, decisions, and practices at every stage, ranging from disciplinary investigations to criminal proceedings, from dismissal from public office to ongoing lawsuits. Even this disparity itself underscores the extent of unlawfulness. While there is a perception that the majority of dismissed academics have returned to their duties upon the decisions of administrative courts, it must be emphasized that this does not accurately reflect reality, as almost equal numbers of academics have had their cases rejected. Additionally, in some cases where academics’ cases were accepted at the first instance, stay-of-execution decisions were made at the appeal stage. Some of these academics already remained unreinstated, while some others were dismissed from the university shortly after reinstatement. Another issue is the discrepancy where some signatories’ cases have progressed to the appeal stage, while administrative courts have yet to rule on the cases of others.

In the cases of signatory academics, just as different administrative courts issue different decisions, sometimes the same administrative court issues different decisions too. We were dismissed from public office for signing the petition, but some administrative courts disregarded the Constitutional Court’s binding ruling on Zübeyde Füsun Üstel and others. Moreover, despite the acquittal verdicts handed down by the Assize Courts, certain administrative courts overstep their jurisdiction and reject the cases as if conducting a double jeopardy trial. Throughout these proceedings, interim decisions range from soliciting additional information and documents about the plaintiff from various institutions -including even MASAK! (Republic of Turkey Ministry of Treasure and Finance)- to seeking opinions about the plaintiff from the General Directorate of Security or the university, scrutinizing social media posts and interactions including likes, and even requesting case files from previously acquitted cases, all in an effort to fabricate evidence for “legitimizing” the plaintiff’s dismissal from public office. The purpose of the meaning ascribed to legitimacy by judicial authorities, who strive for their own legitimacy in the absence of the rule of law, is quite apparent… In fact, many courts dismiss cases on the pretext of the responses to interim decisions, though they are unrelated to the case’s subject matter. With nearly 25 years of experience in administrative justice, I can attest that there remains no discernible threshold in these proceedings concerning the dismissals of academics under SoE decree laws, akin to the current criminal proceedings in Turkey. While all these may sound Kafkaesque, it is the stark reality we experience…

I believe that the way the administrative judiciary operates is a deliberate choice, and prolonging the uncertainty that has persisted for years until the appeal stage is part of a policy of intimidation… Though in a system where judicial independence is mere rhetoric, the courts’ approach is unsurprising; it undeniably exacerbates injustice.

What have been the ramifications of the inconsistency in the court processes? As you mentioned, in some administrative courts lawsuits are ongoing, while in cases where acceptance decisions were issued, universities fail to reinstate academics despite the judicial rulings. What has been your experience?

İnci: First of all, I’d like to note that, in terms of positive law, the decisions of administrative courts are not binding on each other. Therefore, in similar cases, one court may accept the case while another may reject it. However, the issue at hand goes beyond mere bindingness; it pertains to the rule of law itself. In the context of our cases, we can approach this from two angles that I previously mentioned. Firstly, there’s a significant decision by the Constitutional Court regarding the nine signatories of the peace petition, the findings of which extend beyond criminal law considerations. This decision is legally binding on legislative, executive, and judicial bodies, administrative authorities, as well as natural and legal persons, in accordance with the explicit provision of the Constitution. However, in the current scenario, administrative courts are not abiding by this decision. In other words, they are issuing rulings that contravene the clear provision of the Constitution. This constitutes the first dimension of the issue.

The second dimension pertains to the scope and limits of administrative judicial review. I would like to emphasize this point, at the risk of repetition. We were dismissed from public office for signing the declaration titled “We will not be a party to this crime!” despite having no involvement in the process leading to the declaration of the State of Emergency. As there was no other recourse left available against this process, we applied to the State of Emergency Commission and subsequently filed lawsuits in administrative courts upon the rejection of our applications. Therefore, the only procedure that administrative courts can review in our cases is the rejection decision of the State of Emergency Commission. Administrative courts are limited to reviewing the conformity of administrative procedures and actions with the law; they do not and cannot have the authority to review anything beyond this. However, in the cases of dismissed peace academics, administrative courts are not merely reviewing the legality of administrative procedure but instead are passing judgment on us. This essentially amounts to a criminal trial disguised as administrative justice. Despite the clear grounds for our dismissal, some administrative courts issuing rejection decisions attempt to find or even fabricate grounds to prevent us from public office, while others go even further and decide that we are associated with terrorist organizations, citing reasons such as a social media post. Thus, the focus of review here is not the legality of the procedure but rather our suitability for public office. In assessing this suitability, a social media post made a decade ago or a case file from three decades ago for which you were acquitted becomes a consideration as if it qualifies as evidence.

This attitude of administrative courts deepens the injustice suffered by dismissed academics. Moreover, some universities exacerbate this injustice by failing to implement the rulings of the administrative courts for months. There is a Constitution in force in this country and according to its provisions, the decisions of the Constitutional Court are binding. Yet, administrative courts overlook this decision in their judgment. Again, according to the Constitution, administrative authorities are mandated to adhere to court rulings and cannot postpone their execution, yet some universities have neglected to implement these decisions for months. In short, we can summarize the situation as an all-over lawlessness.

Esengül: The decision regarding my case was also announced in May but was not implemented until September. Both my lawyer and I were puzzled by the university’s reluctance… We could be optimistic, attributing it to the scorching Adana heat and the intervening judicial vacation, or we could think that it stemmed from bureaucratic resistance aimed at preventing a “terrorist” from entering the university’s premises. All our experiences, of course, suggest the latter. When the deadline for implementing the decision passed, we lodged a criminal complaint with the prosecutor’s office, which we suppose played a role in prompting the implementation of the decision. The attitude of the bureaucracy at the university rectorate does not feel like they regard it as an end to years of injustice and lawlessness. Rather, it feels like they regard it as an acceptance of someone who had been accused of terrorist propaganda into their fold… Once again, justice appears to be elusive in this situation. My lawyer and I remain steadfast in our ongoing fight for justice.

A week after the decision was implemented, I came to The New Institute in Hamburg on a six-month unpaid leave of absence. This opportunity had been extended to me a year prior. As I prepare to return to the university in a few months, I am uncertain about the environment that awaits me there. Currently, I am vigilantly observing the emergence of new fascist movements among the students.

Those who have been reinstated are having their rights restored after seven years, but due to the crisis in the country and other changing circumstances, it is also difficult to talk about financial compensation, in addition to the moral/social aspect. How do you interpret this situation?

Esengül: This is the other side of punishment. I’ll never forget; when we were expelled, someone who is now an associate professor at the university said something to me during one of the farewells, implying that I would come back to school rich once this process was over, with enough compensation to buy a house and a car… I mumbled something along the lines of, “Well, but life will pass, it won’t be that sunny.” Of course, I didn’t expect them to have overlooked this aspect of the situation… The university paid me retroactive compensation. However, after paying off my debts, I’ll be left with around four hundred grand. When I was expelled, I owned a 2006 Honda Jazz car, which I had to sell for 35 grand. Now I can’t even afford to buy the same car secondhand… This should give you an idea of what “financial compensation” actually entails…

I don’t know if there has ever been another period in Turkey’s history when evil has been so thoroughly organized. What we’re witnessing in our ordinary daily lives is just one example. I believe the greatest harm and hostility inflicted upon this country by the current government and the bureaucracy it has shaped in this process has been the collapse of the justice, education, and health systems, along with the destruction of institutions. The erosion of the value system that began during the Özal era in the aftermath of September 12 appears to have escalated into decay in this period. If Demirel’s “competent” civil servants/citizens were able to “turn loss into profit” amid this chaos, all the better 😊 This was yet another statement I frequently heard throughout this process.

A significant number of academics who lost their jobs and were dismissed from their positions are feminists or women who teach and produce academic work in the field of gender studies. How do you assess the state of gender studies at universities at this point?

İnci: Seven years is indeed a long time, and since our suspension from universities, our insight into what occurs “inside” is limited. Although conversations with our colleagues who continue to work at universities, the reports we prepared and the workshops we conducted as the Aramızda [Among Us] Association for Gender Research, and steps taken by the Higher Education Council in alignment with the government’s approach to gender issues provide us some insight into the process, since we lack the chance to observe firsthand what truly occurs within universities, there is understandably a limitation. We’re all aware of the harm caused to the universities by the purges in universities during the State of Emergency and the subsequent effects of the ensuing silence. Despite being dismissed for exercising our freedom of expression, there was no collective outcry from universities. This silence and apathy have resulted in increased pressure on universities under the party-state regime and further erosion of academic freedoms.

To be able to offer a commentary or assessment regarding gender studies, it’s necessary to go a little back. Pressure on research and studies in this field, both within universities and civil society, has always existed though in different forms. However, I believe that the SoE regime and its aftermath have been decisive factors in the current onslaught we experience today. The repercussions of the SoE regime on the societal landscape and the extent of lawlessness it ushered in have impacted not only universities but the entire public, particularly civil society organizations working in this field. Again, the purge of numerous academics specializing in gender studies from universities during the SoE regime resulted in the closure of many courses on this subject, leaving master’s and doctoral theses without advisors and hindering these individuals from conducting academic work under the university roof. And the ramifications of the expulsions extended beyond that. Several CTS units (units for the prevention of sexual harassment and assault at universities), established in the 2000s, became dysfunctional, and interventions against them started. Furthermore, interventions in student clubs formed by LGBTI+ students and the curtailment of their activities on campuses ultimately eroded the relatively liberal environment in some universities. In 2019, the Council of Higher Education (YÖK) suspended the Gender Research Project initiated in 2015 and abolished the Position Paper. Political maneuvers aimed at suppressing freedom of expression, Turkey’s unlawful “withdrawal” from the Istanbul Convention, the appointment of trustee rectors, and numerous other actions directly or indirectly undermined academic organization and activities in the field of gender studies at universities. These include impeding the introduction of new courses in gender studies on various pretexts, graduate students working in this field encountering difficulties in finding advisors or being asked to alter their thesis topics, de facto hindrance of academic research on certain subjects by YÖK, and the prevalence of self-censorship in academic endeavors. It’s evident that studying gender has become exceedingly challenging within such an environment.

Esengül: Indeed, throughout this process, not only us academics but also the academic disciplines and schools of thought we represent have been expelled from the universities. In this respect, I find two organizations particularly significant: Aramızda Association for Gender Studies and İnsan Hakları Okulu (the School of Human Rights)… “Gender studies” as an academic discipline itself has been expelled from the university. We, those who identify as feminists/queers and those who do not necessarily identify as such but engaged in academic research and teaching with a gender perspective, suddenly found ourselves side by side and founded Aramızda. If you recall, during the Suruç Massacre, KAOS GL and the LGBTIQ+ movement were directly targeted; and it became evident that a period hostile to and detrimental to the gains of the feminist and LGBTIQ+ fields has been blatantly emerging. The same holds true for the field of human rights. In other words, we encountered new manifestations of fascism that directly aimed at dismantling the areas opened up by the rights movements of the 1990s, and I believe this trend still prevails through diversifying… However, the field of gender -perhaps because it’s rooted in its own mental transformation first and foremost- stands as such a robust and transformative political domain that it evidently cannot be easily destroyed.

One of the working groups established within Aramızda monitors developments in the field of gender at universities. Last December, a workshop titled “Defending, Making Visible, and Empowering Gender Studies in Academia” was held in Ankara, bringing together academics from 19 universities. If you recall, the field was further narrowed in 2019 when YÖK abolished the Gender Equality Position Paper. It’s vital to open up these narrowed spaces, monitor the challenges within academia, and explore dilemmas and opportunities to safeguard our freedoms. We need new policies and approaches to sustain gender studies within academia and prevent Women’s Studies Centers from becoming tools of current right-wing conservative agendas. According to an article by Selma Koçak from Aramızda, published on KAOS GL’s website, academics participating in the two-day workshop I just mentioned emphasized that the most pressing issue in academia concerning gender studies is the situation of LGBTIQ+ individuals. Today, academia faces various forms of oppression in this regard, from preventing the use of the term LGBTIQ+ in studies and hindering research in this field to lodging complaints with CIMER (Presidency of the Republic of Turkey Communication Center) and impeding collaboration with non-governmental organizations active in this field… This field has not only become a target at the level of university administrations, bureaucracy, and institutions but is also attacked by right-wing, conservative, and nationalist student groups.

As you mentioned, Aramızda is an association established by academics specialize in this field who are dismissed from their positions through SoE decree laws. Could you tell us more about Aramızda?

İnci: Founded during the state of emergency, Aramızda has persevered through challenging times to this day. We received significant solidarity from individuals and NGOs experienced in civil society, both during and after its establishment. Personally, I can attest to the importance and value of this solidarity, as well as the solidarity we cultivated “among us”, in the processes we were subjected to after the dismissals. Reflecting on our journey, I can see how many things that I say “we also achieved this, we also did that” was realized through immense efforts and dedication, despite all the difficulties we experienced. While our initial bond was formed by our expulsions from the universities, what made Aramızda what it is today was not only our shared desire to continue our academic work in various forms within civil society, but also our commitment to collaborative production, action, and advocacy. And it still is.

Following workshops and meetings held in 2017, the idea of establishing Aramızda Association for Gender Research began to take shape and was eventually realized. While the association is based in Ankara, the majority of our members reside in different cities. Although this geographical diversity may initially appear as a challenge to collaborative efforts, it has actually been a positive and enriching experience for Aramızda. Moreover, our diverse professional backgrounds have not only broadened the association’s scope of activities but have also facilitated mutual inspiration and made our work more enjoyable. I believe Aramızda holds a unique significance for many of our collaborating friends, even those not currently active within the organization.

Over the course of seven years, we have organized numerous workshops covering various topics, offered gender courses through Off-University, conducted interviews under the title “Interviews Among Us,” curated a feminist calendar, produced podcast series including “How Did I Become a Feminist?”, “What is This?”, and “Feminism from Generation to Generation,” and compiled reports on diverse subjects such as the status of CTS units at universities, academic departments, and the content of gender studies courses. Many of these activities are ongoing. Alongside our advocacy efforts, we are also trying to create a memory of what happened in the field of gender studies during and after the SoE.

Is there anything else you would like to add regarding the solidarity networks formed during this process?

Esengül: The university as an institution is in a crisis. The situation is not much better in Europe and America, either. In our country, the dissolution has been rapid. I believe that the solidarity academies established during this dissolution process, despite all their negative aspects, have set an important experience. These days, discussions about the future of universities are prevalent in Europe as well. In such discussions, I think it’s very important to share the experiences of solidarity academies – with all their flaws and shortcomings- and strive to create a common international space. As someone feeling good about being part of Aramızda and sensing the presence of the haunting ghost that affects both previous and current generations, I am optimistic enough to believe that this is where the academic field as a space for practices, actions, and theories can be established. If we, as Aramızda, can contribute to paving the way for an independent international academic space for gender studies, I would consider that we have done justice to all these experiences of our generation. Because there are no positive developments on the horizon in terms of where the world is heading and I am one of those who feel a responsibility to address this issue…

Translator: Gökşin Uğur

Proof-reader: Müge Karahan

For the original in Turkish / Yazının Türkçesi için


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