Open letter from universities in North and East Syria condemns Turkish attacks

An open letter from academics and staff of the universities in North and East Syria condemned the Turkish state bombardments of the region-

The Coordination Center of the Universities of North and East Syria (University of Rojava, University of Kobane, University of Al-Sharq) wrote an open letter to academics and the international academic community to condemn the continuous bombing of the region carried out by the Turkish state.

The letter said: "We pen this letter as educators and staff from the Universities in Northeast Syria commonly known as Rojava, acting on behalf of the Coordination Center of Universities in North and East Syria. We find ourselves in a situation where, much like many regions across the Middle East and the world, we are relentlessly under attack on multiple fronts. The Turkish state continually subjects our society and livelihoods to daily assaults utilizing a wide array of weaponry. At the same time, we are deeply saddened and concerned by the ongoing Israeli campaign of colonial violence in Gaza and the loss of thousands of lives in Palestine and also in Hamas’s attacks on Israel. We express our solidarity with everyone impacted by this war, especially with colleagues and students in Gazan schools and universities whose campuses have been destroyed by Israeli airstrikes. We stand with the international community in calling for an immediate ceasefire and the lifting of the blockade on Gaza."

The letter added: "In these times of pain and sorrow and in the face of these dire circumstances, we aim to express our thoughts and sentiments through this message.

We recognize that our suffering is not confined to our region alone, as numerous parts of the world are grappling with severe challenges brought about by the global dynamics of power and capital. As we approach the conclusion of the first quarter of the 21st century, our world is grappling with significant conflicts. On one hand, we are witnessing rapid advancements in science and technology, while on the other hand, we continue to experience warfare, genocides, and acts of terror at a scale reminiscent of a "Third World War." Additionally, serious social issues, assaults on the dignity of women, crimes against children, environmental pollution, hunger, rising global temperatures, and many other problems persist.

This leads us to ponder: why has the development of science and technology not led to progress in democracy, equality, ecology, peace, and human rights? On the contrary, why have problems in these areas escalated? What is the purpose of scientific advancement, and who is it intended to benefit?"

The letter continued: "If societal issues intensify alongside scientific progress, it becomes imperative for scientists, educators, and researchers to ask these questions and acknowledge their responsibilities. Institutions, universities, academies, research centers, and the like, are arenas in which such questions, conflicts, and challenges should be thoroughly examined. Throughout history, ethics has always been a significant facet of science and philosophy. Unfortunately, present-day academia and universities seem to be experiencing a profound lapse in terms of responsibility. It appears that human empathy and ethics have never been so fragile. How is it that, despite widespread social, cultural, moral, and physical atrocities occurring globally, academics and universities are displaying such feebleness in asserting their will and stance? Inaction or weak commitment in the face of mass murderers, colonialists, assimilationists, invaders, fascists, sexists, greedy corporations, and nationalists poses a grave threat to our world, our environment, our society, and our livelihoods. Moreover, indifference to assaults on the dignity and autonomy of women is equally perilous. It must not be forgotten that a lack of commitment or weak commitment implies complicity and partnership. Sadly, contemporary scientists and universities are complicit to a considerable extent. This is an undeniable reality that warrants a more explicit, interpretive, and elucidative position."

The letter said: "History attests that when philosophy, science, and knowledge fulfill their ethical obligations, they advocate for radical change; they alleviate societal suffering and fortify democracy, equality, and freedom. The history of humanity shows that philosophy and the concepts of justice, freedom and democracy have evolved when authorities and their consequences grew weaker. This is a fundamental truth. Our aim is not to reiterate these facts; rather, it is to draw attention to the imminent danger we face. As academics and universities based in northeast Syria, who are living through the consequences of these facts, we earnestly wish to cultivate and foster a heightened sensitivity and awareness. We firmly assert that what truly matters is not mourning when the pain strikes us personally. We become global, social, and ethical when we weep and raise our voices in solidarity with the suffering of people worldwide. Pain does not need to be confined to our homes, our lands, or our countries. If we fail to empathize with others today and remain inactive, there might not be anyone left to assist us tomorrow.

Compassionate individuals recognize that the people of Syria and Rojava have waged a historic resistance against the terror of Daesh and the Turkish state's occupation for many years. We have paid a steep price for our stance and continue to do so. After occupying parts of our territory, the Turkish state is imposing a regime of fear, threats, and daily massacres on us through the use of drones, fighter jets, and bombings. Most recently, on 05.10.2023, the Turkish state flagrantly targeted our social infrastructure. Before the eyes of the world, they systematically destroyed critical facilities and resources, such as hospitals, schools, academies, grain storage depots, power plants, water distribution centers, oil facilities, and more, upon which millions of people depend.

Pain and suffering know no geography. There is no distinction between the pain endured by Kurdish, Palestinian, and Israeli children, women, and communities. Their suffering is a shared burden, and the right to life is sacred for all. The key is for every one of us to unite against oppressive and violent regimes and systems, irrespective of the context. Our goal is not to perpetuate this narrative, but rather to draw attention to the imminent danger confronting us. As academics and staff at universities of northeast Syria, we have had firsthand experience of these realities, and we are deeply committed to raising awareness and taking action. We firmly assert that the vital point is not to grieve when the pain is in our hearts. When we weep and raise our voices in solidarity with the suffering of all individuals worldwide, we demonstrate that we are global, social, and ethical. Pain need not be limited to our homes, our land, or our country. If we fail to feel the pain of others today and take a stand, tomorrow, when we face our own hardships, there may be no one left to help us."

The letter went on: "In the current environment, we continue to face assaults, requiring us to stand firm in the face of adversity. Consequently, our universities have been temporarily closed due to circumstances beyond our control. Nonetheless, we remain committed to our work and our struggle, not allowing adversity to deter us from our mission. Our desire and hope are to further strengthen our resolve and commitment as intellectuals, educators, and academics. We firmly believe that the many projects we have undertaken jointly can serve as a catalyst to prevent mass atrocities, forge a path toward peace, and put an end to the dark scenarios we face.

Sustained commitment and a renewed struggle for peace and social justice offer the only path to overcome the distress, violence, and attacks we are currently enduring. In conclusion, we maintain that no force is mightier than the power of unity among diverse societies striving for democratic values. When hearts, minds, and the strength of communities come together, they can indeed manifest the world they envision. Time is of the essence, and if we do not act today, it may be too late. With the hope of a peaceful, free, and equitable world for all!"