Petition - Call for the withdrawal of the honorary doctorate awarded to Turkey's prime minister Binali Yıldırım

With this petition, we register our protest against the authoritarian regime in Turkey, and stand in solidarity with our colleagues, who are being hounded and prosecuted there. We call for the withdrawal of the honorary doctorate awarded to Turkey's prime minister Binali Yıldırım. As a close confidante of president Erdoğan, he plays a crucial role in the authoritarian restructuring of the country, and to the escalation of the civil war in the Kurdish areas in the country's South-East.

Honorary doctorates are normally awarded to honour intellectual prowess and outstanding contributions to a scientific field. At the same time, such awards are used to highlight the connection with the academic in question. As academics at Berlin's Technical University (TU) and other academic institutions, we reject any such connection with the Turkish Prime Minister and the chair of the AKP, Binali Yıldırım.

More than 6,000 academics have lost their jobs in Turkey, 40,000 teachers have been fired. Prime Minister Yıldırım has been instrumental in pushing ahead with the elimination of critical opinion, the forcing into line of media, the liquidation of many critical outlets and the incarceration of journalists, as well as the arrest and persecution of countless high-ranking opposition politicians. A person who is directly responsible for the persecution of scientists in Turkey, merely on the basis of general suspicions, and who responds by bringing academic institutions under direct political control, must not be awarded an honorary doctorate for such actions. The official declaration issued by the TU highlights his commitment to "the development and spreading of, as well as scientific research into information and communications-technologies." It is grotesque that Binali Yıldırım was awarded his honorary doctorate on the 7th of December 2011 for his achievements in the field of communications technologies. Already during the Gezi-Park protests in 2013, the constant expansion of internet surveillance and the restrictions on free access to the internet were proceeding apace under his responsibility. Of late, there have been regular blockades of social networks, cloud services and anonymisation-networks such as VPNs or TOR. Instead of supporting net neutrality and the expansion of a free internet, the prime minister stands for an internet controlled by states, devoid of the possibility of free expression. Finally, the debate, initiated by him, about the re-introduction of the death penalty directly contradicts the principles of tolerant and democratic academic exchange. Turkey is currently being refashioned into an authoritarian presidential dictatorship.

We believe that this has to engender political consequences going beyond mere words. As partners to many Turkish scientific projects, we have this responsibility. Because of this responsibility vis-à-vis our colleagues who have fallen victim to the purges and arrests, we can no longer accept that prime minister Yıldırım, key agent of this new system, can adorn himself with honorary awards given by this university. Independent academic research requires a democratic environment – we no longer believe that this applies in Turkey. The TU Berlin has to clearly commit to and protect the freedom of academic research. We demand that the TU distance itself clearly from the policies pushed by the bearer of its award, and take a position on this by revoking his honours – for the victims of the authoritarian and repressive policies of the Turkish government.