Turkey arrests Kurdish academic for saying 'Long live Kurdistan' on social media

Turkey has arrested a Kurdish academic for saying "Long live Kurdistan" on social media. Diyarbakır Bar Association head Nahit Eren slammed Hifzullah Kutum's imprisonment, saying that the social media post should have been handled as part of freedom of expression.

Ardıl Batmaz / DUVAR

A Kurdish academic was arrested for saying "Long live Kurdistan" on social media in the eastern province of Elazığ. 

Hifzullah Kutum was detained on Nov. 5, shortly after Fırat University suspended him over his post on Twitter, which also featured a picture of former Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) President Masoud Barzani.

The academic, who had been receiving death threats, was detained for "making propaganda of a terrorist organization." He was arrested on Nov. 6. 

Commenting on Kutum's imprisonment, Diyarbakır Bar Association head Nahit Eren said that the post should have been handled as part of freedom of expression. 

"The judiciary's stance towards freedom of expression in Turkey was revealed once again. The decision to arrest him hurts the country's democracy, freedoms and basic rights," Eren told Duvar. 

Pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) deputy Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu also slammed Kutum's imprisonment, saying that Turkey's allergies towards the Kurdish identity continue. 

"This is a fascistic approach," Gergerlioğlu told Kurdistan24 on Nov. 7, while also branding the jailing of the academic "scandalous." 

"I support Hifzullah Kutum's right to freedom of expression," the deputy added. 

Future Party politician Kani Torun was another politician to criticize Kutum's imprisonment.

"His imprisonment is an indicator of the situation that academic freedoms are in," Kutum said on Nov. 6, while also branding the move "a phobia of the Kurds." 

"Freedom of expression is the most basic principle of democracies," he added. 

Days before his arrest, Kutum gave an interview to Duvar and described Fırat University's investigation into him over the social media post. 

Kutum said that he received a warning at the end of the investigation process, which was followed by the academic objecting to the university's move.

His objection was rejected by Prof. Kenan Peker, the deputy dean, on Nov. 1 on the grounds that the punishment was already the most minor one that was given.

Kutum was asked to give his defense as part of the investigation, during which university administrators asked him what his purpose was when he shared the post. The academic was also asked whether the image in the tweet "included a threat against Turkey's territorial integrity and border security."

In response, Kutum said that the flag in the image is of the KRG, with which Turkey had official contacts, while also referring to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's pictures with the Barzani family.

According to Kutum, the person who filed a complaint against him was an ultranationalist academic who told Peker that he was planning to report the social media post to the Turkish Presidency's Communication Centre (CİMER).

"The deputy dean told him not to report me to CİMER and instead said, 'We'll handle this on our own.' That's how the investigation was launched," Kutum told Duvar.

The academic said that Peker contacted him after he talked to the media about the investigation.

"He asked me what I was trying to do. I told him that I was subjected to injustice and was trying to make my voice be heard," Kutum said.

"I don't fear investigations because I'm right. These people have animosity towards Kurds. They abuse the authority given to them by law and institutions," he said.