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Turkish Academics Call for End to Ankara's PKK Crackdown

Plainclothes police detain a man in Istanbul, one of more than 200 people who were protesting peacefully against curfews and operations in mainly Kurdish cities and towns in southeastern Turkey, Jan. 3, 2016.

In Turkey, more than 1,000 professors and teachers are calling for an end to the government's current crackdown on the Kurdish rebel group, the PKK, in towns and cities across the predominantly Kurdish southeast. The academics are calling for a resumption of the peace process.

In a short statement, the academics condemned the ongoing crackdown by Turkish security forces on the Kurdish rebel group, the PKK.

They especially criticized the use of tanks in towns and city centers, calling it a deliberate massacre of Kurdish people. Their petition with more than 1,000 signatures calls for an immediate end to the use of curfews and a return to the peace process that broke down in July.

According to national and international human rights groups, nearly 200 civilians have been killed, many of them the elderly and children.

The government disputes the numbers, saying far fewer have been killed and all steps are being taken to minimize civilian causalities.

Despite the crackdown being one of the most severe by security forces since the peak of the conflict in the 1990’s, Professor Ayfer Bartu says there has been little public debate.

"I am very disturbed by this public silence about what's going on in southeast Turkey. I think people are scared to talk about this. Especially as academics I felt we have the responsibility to at least call attention nationally and internationally and holding the state accountable for the atrocities that are taking place in southeast. That is why I signed it," said Bartu.

Recently, a well-known television talk show host apologized for criticizing the crackdown after a telephone interview with a teacher from the conflict-strewn region. The television network and teacher are now under investigation for terrorist propaganda.

Petition organizer Professor Esra Mungan says similar pressure is being exerted in universities.

On Monday, the main opposition Republican People’s Party said in 2015, there were nearly 500 criminal investigations into journalists and of that number, 156 were detained. Thirty-two remain in jail.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said his government is determined to uphold human rights.