Statement of Support for Dr Noémi Lévy-Aksu from the Department of International History
On 13 June 2019 an LSE Fellow in the Department of International History, Dr Noémi Lévy-Aksu, was sentenced to two years and six months in prison by a Turkish court in Istanbul for signing a petition as part of an "Academics for Peace" initiative in Turkey. This petition was originally issued in January 2016, and has attracted the support of over 2200 academics. Since the end of 2017, over 600 of them have been summoned by the Turkish authorities to court appearances, and almost 200 of these have been given prison sentences of various lengths. The petition had the title "we will not be a party to this crime", and called for an end to violence in the Kurdish regions of Turkey, and for a peaceful resolution to the situation there. For this, Noemi and other academics were charged with "propagandizing for a terrorist organization." Noémi’s sentence is under appeal and she is safe and no longer in Turkey.
Noémi is a much-valued member of the Department who as an LSE Fellow for the past year has engaged our students through her teaching on HY324: Muslim-Jewish Relations: History and Memory in the Middle East and Europe, 622-1945, and HY459: The Ottoman Empire and its Legacy, 1299-1950. Her research focuses on the legal, political, and social history of the late Ottoman Empire and modern Turkey. Besides her book Ordre et désordres dans l’Istanbul ottoman (Karthala, 2013), she has published articles and book chapters on policing and urban history and justice in the late Ottoman Empire. She also co-edited The Young Turk Revolution and the Ottoman Empire: the aftermath of 1908 (I.B. Tauris, 2017).
We hope that the Turkish authorities will follow the rules and regulations of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Final Act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE), all of which Turkey has signed, and all of which protect the rights to freedom of expression and association.
In March 2017, after being dismissed from her position at Boğaziçi University in Istanbul, Noémi announced, "When I signed the Petition of Peace, I listened to my conscience, and I will continue to do so, together with many others. You may call it a political standpoint, but what 'political' means here is neither party membership nor opposition to another party. Peace, freedom and justice should be the common set of values that bind us together, despite our political differences."
We wish to express our support for our colleague, strongly protest this attack on academic freedom of expression, and would encourage the LSE community to take note of the boundaries being placed on such freedoms of expression and conscience in Turkey and elsewhere.