‘Academic for Peace’ commits suicide in Turkey after dismissal from academy

Mehmet Fatih Tras

Mehmet Fatih Tras, an academic who signed a peace declaration last year calling for an end to clashes, committed suicide on late Friday following his dismissal from a university in Turkey.

Tras, 34, was a research assistant at Cukurova University in the southern Adana city of Turkey. He was one of the signatories of a peace declaration which was signed by over 1,100 academics from 90 universities, had called on the government to stop military operations by security forces in southeastern Turkey, restart peace talks with Kurdish parties and return the country to peace.

Tras was fired from his position at the university after he had finished his doctoral studies.

Speaking to a Turkish news outlet Birgun, Dr Taylan Koc, another dismissed academic who also signed the peace declaration, said that Traş had worked for ten years at the university and was a contracted lecturer.

“He was targeted by the head of the finance department Hasim Akca. Not just him, we were all targeted. Then, he applied to Mardin’s Artuklu University. Finally he signed a contract with Istanbul Aydin University but his contract was cancelled on the following day. Because he was blacklisted,” Taylan Koc said.

Dr Gunal Kursun, another signatory of the peace declaration, said: “He was a happy, kind and positive person. His life had changed after he signed the declaration. He was lynched in a social manner because he asked for peace. He was labelled by the whole university. He tried to apply to other universities but he lost his hope after being denied many times. ”

The Adana branch of the Education and Science Worker’s Union (Egitim-Sen) made a statement concerning Tras’s tragic death on Saturday and said the academic committed suicide as a result of psychological trauma he experienced after losing his job.

The peace declaration frustrated President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Turkish authorities, leading to retribution against the academics. Erdogan insulted the signatory academics many times calling them ‘so-called intellectuals’ or ‘traitors’. These insults continue.

The peace declaration was announced in January 2016 at the height of urban clashes between Turkish security forces and Kurdish militants. Hundreds of academics who signed the declaration were detained by police across Turkey while hundreds of them were removed from their jobs after the declaration.

Half of 330 academics purged with a recent government decree law in February had also signed the peace declaration.