Scholars at Risk monitors reports of threats to academic freedom and higher education communities worldwide, including media articles, blogs, opinion pieces and other announcements. Scholars at Risk identifies situations of concern on its own and welcomes reports submitted by faculty, students and volunteers at participating higher education institutions. Subscribe to SAR’s weekly media review
The below articles have been featured in this year’s media reviews.
China’s genetic research on ethnic minorities sets off science backlash
Sui-Lee Wee and Paul Mozur, The New York Times, 12/04
Scientists are raising questions about the ethics of studies backed by Chinese surveillance agencies. Prestigious journals are taking action. China’s efforts to study the DNA of the country’s ethnic minorities have incited a growing backlash from the global scientific community, as a number of scientists warn that Beijing could use its growing knowledge to spy on and oppress its people. Read more.
Gulf donors drawn into controversy over foreign influence at US campuses
Aaron Schaffer, Al-Monitor, 12/03
Multimillion-dollar donations to US universities by Arab Gulf monarchies and other wealthy Middle East donors are coming under scrutiny as Congress and the Donald Trump administration crack down on Chinese and other foreign influence operations across the country. Read more.
Most Arab-world researchers want to leave, a new survey finds
Benjamin Plackett, Al-Fanar Media, 12/03
The vast majority of researchers in the Arab region want to work elsewhere. This desire holds true across age groups, fields of research and country income levels. These are the findings of a regionwide survey of 650 researchers conducted by Al-Fanar Media. Read more.
Is the threat to academic freedom growing?
Megan Zahneis, The Chronicle of Higher Education, 12/01
Robert Quinn started Scholars at Risk two decades ago. The project matters now more than ever. In China, students and scholars are being imprisoned by the Communist Party at “re-education camps.” In Sudan, authorities are beating and tear-gassing students participating in protests. Read more.
Campus siege ends – But are universities being punished?
Mimi Leung and Yojana Sharma, University World News, 11/28
The siege at Hong Kong Polytechnic University or PolyU ended on Thursday after almost two weeks, as police finally entered the all-but-deserted campus on 28 November. Police surrounded the sprawling campus of the university known for excellent design and engineering schools from 17 November, amid pitched battles with protesters and scenes that some humanitarian workers with experience in conflict regions described as a ‘war zone’. Read more.
Academics should not need to live in fear for the pursuit of their science
“Sowing corruption on Earth.” That was one of the charges levelled at Iranian conservation biologists who were arrested in January 2018 and charged with spying. They were arrested for using camera traps to study endangered wildlife, especially the Asiatic cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus venaticus). There are fewer than 100 of the animals left in the world and most are believed to be in Iran. Read more.
Free them! (German)
Anna-Lena Scholz, Die Zeit, 11/27
In many countries, researchers are coming under increasing pressure. If science is attacked, society is in danger. Take, for example, Fariba Adelkhah, a Professor of Anthropology at the French university Sciences Po. She is the author of many books and essays on topics such as the role of women in Iran, education and Islam, and the war in Afghanistan. Read more.
Protect Italy’s new funding agency
Lawmakers must ensure that a much-needed funding agency is independent and autonomous. Italy is a rare example of a major world economy without a research funding agency that operates independently of a science or research ministry. Read more.
Iran declares protests are over, but the evidence suggests otherwise
Farnaz Fassihi and Rick Gladstone, The New York Times, 11/21
Iran’s student union said plainclothes agents of the pro-government Basij militia, hiding inside ambulances to evade restrictions on entering campuses, had seized more than 50 students at Tehran University after protests there. Read more.
Iran ‘sentences wildlife activists’ accused of spying
A court in Iran has sentenced six wildlife conservationists accused of spying to between six and ten years in prison, their families say. They were among a group detained in early 2018 while using cameras to track endangered species. Read more.
A new academic freedom report describes worldwide attacks on higher education
Edward Fox and Tarek Abd El-Galil, Al Fanar Media, 11/19
A new report published today summarizes attacks on higher education around the world in the past year. It highlights Sudan, where the government, in an attempt to silence dissent, has closed universities and, in a long string of violent incidents, has brutalized and imprisoned students and professors with the intent of quashing protest. Read more.
Where critical voices are silenced (German)
Christoph David Piorkowski, Der Tagesspiegel, 11/19
In the debate over alleged threats to the freedom of scholarship resulting from stifled lectures at German universities, it sometimes becomes apparent that researchers in some countries still risk their professional existence or even their freedom and lives. Read more.
Hong Kong protests: Over 1,000 detained at a university, and a warning from Beijing
Elaine Yu, Steven Lee Myers and Russell Goldman, The New York Times, 11/18
About 50 protesters remained holed up inside a Hong Kong university on Tuesday evening after a three-day standoff between students and the police turned a prestigious institution into a battlefield and ended with hundreds of young people behind bars. Read more.
Scientists are being threatened for doing their jobs
Anjana Ahuja, Financial Times, 11/18
Acting on tip-offs, Bambang Hero Saharjo regularly trudges deep into the Indonesian forest to hunt for traces of illegal fires. The conflagrations, started by companies looking to clear land cheaply to plant cash crops such as palm oil, fill the skies with carbon and threaten the health of his countrymen. Armed with forensic evidence and satellite images, he then testifies against the wrongdoers in court. Read more.
Classes move to Vienna as Hungary makes rare decision to oust university
Shaun Walker, The Guardian, 11/16
A trumpet fanfare, a wine reception and celebratory speeches, but alongside it all, an undertone of melancholy: the opening of Central European University’s Vienna campus on Friday also marked the first time for decades that a university has been forced out of a European country. Read more.
Hong Kong student who suffered severe brain injury after car park fall has died
Alvin Lum, South China Morning Post, 11/08
A university student who suffered a severe brain injury after he fell from a car park early on Monday near an area of confrontation between protesters and police died on Friday morning. Chow Tsz-lok, a second year computer science undergraduate at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, reportedly fell from the third floor to the second floor of a car park in Tseung Kwan O, while police carried out a dispersal operation nearby with rounds of tear gas fired. Read more.
Chinese law professor falls foul of online backlash over posts defending Hong Kong protesters
Laurie Chen, South China Morning Post, 11/14
A Chinese professor has become the latest target of an online backlash on the mainland after his chat messages that appeared to support the Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters were leaked online. Niu Jie, a law professor at Nanchang Hangkong University in eastern China, was targeted by angry Weibo users, some of whom published his personal details, on Wednesday for his messages, which appeared to have been written in a private WeChat group. Read more.
Hong Kong colleges become besieged citadels as police close in
Edward Wong and Ezra Cheung, The New York Times, 11/13
Seething with anger, the black-clad students hurled gasoline bombs, threw bricks and even aimed flaming arrows at the riot police, who answered with tear-gas volleys and rubber bullets that hurtled into Hong Kong’s university grounds for the first time. Read more.
The right to know: How does censorship affect academics?
Robert Quinn, Big Think, 11/13
When academics and journalists forego sharing their findings, out of intimidation, we all lose out. The university space is a microcosm in its ideal of what we would like society to be like. People have adequate food, they have adequate housing and they have a chance to develop their capacities and contribute to the meaningful decisions and discourse of their lives. Read more.
Turkey: Drop charges against writer and academic Fikret Başkaya
PEN International, 11/12
The Turkish authorities must drop all charges against Fikret Başkaya, PEN International said today, as the prominent writer and academic is facing a lengthy prison sentence on trumped-up terrorism charges. A verdict is expected to be announced at his next trial hearing on 22 November 2019. Read more.
Turkish students, lecturer on trial for banned LGBTI march
Al Jazeera, 11/12
Eighteen Turkish students and a lecturer on Tuesday have gone on trial for taking part in a banned LGBTI Pride event at an Ankara-based university on May 10. The defendants, who were arrested but have been free pending trial, face up to three years in prison if convicted of “unlawful assembly and protest” and “refusing to disperse.” Read more.
Academic freedom in Singapore and around the world [Podcast]
The Policy Corner, 11/09
In this episode, Alicja Polakiewicz from the Global Public Policy Institute in Berlin (gppi.net) discusses what the cancellation of a class at a University in Singapore tells us about the state of academic freedom and what it means for academia around the world. Listen here.
Chile: Protests against inequality put universities in turmoil
María Elena Hurtado, University World News, 11/09
Universities in Chile are considering taking the drastic action of extending the current semester from December to March to cope with the impact of ongoing mass protests in Chile, which have already seen many academics lose their jobs – and numerous protesters lose their lives. Read more.
The Chinese government cannot be allowed to undermine academic freedom
Sophie Richardson, The Nation, 11/08
A few years ago, I met a student from rural China who had come to a university in Washington, DC, and fallen in love with political science. But he was too afraid of being reported to the Chinese embassy to pursue the subject. While Americans take freedom at universities for granted, for some students from China the feeling is very different. Read more.
A professor’s year teaching in Saudi Arabia was a nightmare. Should an American college have stepped in?
Michael Vasquez, The Chronicle of Higher Education, 11/06
Marwa Mohsen knew she was taking a chance when she left England for a job in Saudi Arabia.
The relocation meant that Mohsen, a marketing professor, would be teaching courses in a country where women are often treated as second-class citizens. And the job was at the Prince Mohammed bin Salman College of Business and Entrepreneurship, a brand new institution with no track record. But there were two words that put her at ease: Babson College. Read more.
Analysis: Indonesian policymaking is not supported by quality research and academic freedom
Inaya Rakhmani and Zulfa Sakhiyya, The Conversation, 11/06
To succeed in delivering programs that help eliminate poverty, ensure people are fed nutritious food, have quality education, are resilient to natural disasters and respectful of diversity, among others, the government must base policies on academically sound evidence. But our study, shows Indonesian policymaking is predominantly informed by research with poor theoretical engagement, with no strong tradition of peer review and with legal threats to academic freedom. Read more.
College ranking metrics should include academic freedom
Mohan J. Dutta, Richard Ashford and Shampa Biswas, Inside Higher Ed, 11/06
Does the standing of your college or university have anything to do with the state of academic freedom on your campus? The global ascendance of the metrics industry — which is primarily based on the collection and aggregation of data to create rankings — has increasingly led to conditions where select performance indicators drive college and university administrators’ decisions and actions. Yet those indicators are systematically disengaged from the question of academic freedom, the foundational cornerstone of college life. Read more.
How should universities respond to China’s growing presence on their campuses?
How should universities encourage respectful dialogue on contentious issues involving China, while at the same time fostering an environment free of intimidation, harassment, and violence? And how should university administrators and governments involve themselves in this process? Read more.
Uganda: Security forces attack students, journalists
Human Rights Watch, 11/04
The Ugandan police and military have cracked down on student protests over fee increases at Makerere University in Kampala on multiple occasions since October 22, 2019. The security forces have fired teargas into student residences, raided dormitories, and beaten and arrested students, detaining dozens for days without charge. Read more.
Professors, beware. A ‘student information officer’ might be watching.
Javier C. Hernández, The New York Times, 11/01
With a neon-red backpack and white Adidas shoes, he looks like any other undergraduate on the campus of Sichuan University in southwestern China. But Peng Wei, a 21-year-old chemistry major, has a special mission: He is both student and spy. Mr. Peng is one of a growing number of “student information officers” who keep tabs on their professors’ ideological views. They are there to help root out teachers who show any sign of disloyalty to President Xi Jinping and the ruling Communist Party. Read more.
Selective amnesty dashes hopes of lecturers’ release
Tunde Fatunde, University World News, 10/31
Observers of Cameroonian politics and higher education are baffled and disappointed by President Paul Biya’s decision not to include the six university teachers abducted from Abuja, Nigeria, and deported back to Cameroon in 2018 in his recently-granted amnesty for political prisoners. Biya’s general amnesty announced in early October saw the unconditional release of 333 political prisoners, including Maurice Kamto, a professor of public law and former dean of the faculty of law at the University of Yaoundé and later faculty of law at the University of Ngaoundéré. Read more.
Academic freedom: Repressive government measures taken against universities in more than 60 countries
Kirsten Roberts Lyer, The Conversation, 10/30
Universities around the world are increasingly under threat from governments restricting their ability to teach and research freely. Higher education institutions are being targeted because they are the home of critical inquiry and the free exchange of ideas. And governments want to control universities out of fear that allowing them to operate freely might ultimately limit governmental power to operate without scrutiny. My recent report, co-authored with researcher Aron Suba for the International Centre for Not-for-Profit Law, has found evidence of restrictive and repressive government measures against universities and other higher education institutions in more than 60 countries. Read more.
Czech-Chinese ties strained as Prague stands up to Beijing
Rob Schmitz, NPR, 10/30
On a typical day, Prague’s City Hall is buzzing with discussions about contracts to upgrade the city’s centuries-old network of cobblestone streets or sewers. But this month, assembly members have been debating a bigger topic — China, and what to do about it. Many in the city are concerned about Beijing’s efforts to influence local politics, business, and higher education space. Read more.
Defending increasingly threatened academic freedoms globally
Marina Svensson and Eva Pils, Social Science Space, 10/30
Academic freedom is at the heart of successful universities. UNESCO defines it as the right “to freedom of teaching and discussion, freedom in carrying out research and disseminating and publishing results.” Academics have pointed out that it also means self-governance and security of academic jobs to ensure independence. Yet in the current climate, academic freedom is under threat everywhere. Not only do some countries perpetrate direct attacks on students and scholars. But the internationalization of higher education has also created new global threats for both scholars and students. Read more.
Iran lawyer: No proof of charges against 2 French citizens
Nasser Karimi, The Associated Press, 10/28
An Iranian lawyer representing two French researchers in custody in Tehran says prosecutors have given no evidence of spying and security charges against them, the semi-official ISNA news agency reported Monday. The report quoted lawyer Saeid Dehghan as saying Roland Marchal was detained on security charges in June while visiting Iran to see Iranian-French fellow academic Fariba Adelkhah. Read more.
Hong Kong protests spread to U.S. colleges, and a rift grows
Emma Goldberg, The New York Times, 10/26
For much of the year, Frances Hui followed the Hong Kong demonstrations from her dorm room at Emerson College, feeling guilty that she was safe in Boston while clashes grew increasingly violent for her fellow Hong Kongers. But when she protested on campus in support of the movement this month, she did not expect to fear for her own well-being. Read more.
If academic freedom is suppressed there, how do we act here?
Marina Svensson and Eva Pils, Social Science Space, 10/24
This is an important year in Chinese history. It marks the anniversaries of two political movements involving students and scholars: the May Fourth Movement and the Tiananmen Square protests – known in China as the June Fourth Incident. The May Fourth Movement of 1919 challenged traditional Chinese values and authorities and demanded freedom of speech and democracy. Seventy years later – and 40 years after the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) had taken power – students, scholars, and other citizens mobilized again in defense of freedom of speech, human rights, and democratic values. Read more.
Sakharov Prize: Jailed Uighur academic Ilham Tohti wins award
An academic jailed for separatism in China has been awarded the European Parliament’s top human rights prize. Ilham Tohti, who is from the Uighur minority, has been a fierce critic of China’s treatment of the Uighur people. He was jailed for life in 2014. Read more.
The power of the purse threatens academic freedom in Kenya’s universities
Ishmael Munene, The Conversation, 10/24
For about 20 years, since the state cut its budgets, Kenya’s universities have been shaped by a drive for profit to cover operating costs. In 2011 private revenue – from streams like tuition fees, programme fees and contract research – actually exceeded state subsidies in Kenya’s top five public universities. This commercialisation of learning means the role of university authorities is that of fundraisers and managers, rather than leaders and defenders of academic freedom. Read more.
Wesleyan stops pursuing joint-venture campus in China
Emmy Hughes and Hannah Reale, The Wesleyan Argus, 10/24
Wesleyan is no longer considering a joint venture campus in China with the private Chinese corporation Hengdian Group, President Michael Roth ’78 announced in an all-campus email sent out the morning of Thursday, Oct. 24. The decision comes after his annual trip to East Asia, during which he met with representatives of Hengdian Group. Read more.
Queensland student sues Chinese consul general, alleging he incited death threats
Ben Doherty, The Guardian, 10/22
A 20-year-old University of Queensland student is taking the Chinese government’s most senior representative in the state to court over allegations the consul general accused him of anti-Chinese separatism and exposed him to death threats. Read more.
Japanese man detained in China on suspicion of spying, Tokyo confirms
South China Morning Post, 10/21
Chinese authorities have detained a Japanese man in Beijing, a government spokesman in Tokyo confirmed on Monday, following media reports that a university professor was being held on suspicion of spying. “The Japanese embassy in China confirmed that a Japanese man in his 40s was detained by Chinese authorities in Beijing in September for [allegedly] violating Chinese laws,” Japan’s top government spokesman Yoshihide Suga told reporters. Read more.
Speaking up about free speech on campus
Peter Monaghan, The Chronicle of Higher Education, 10/20
When Ulrich Baer contributed an opinion piece to The New York Times in 2017 on speech on campus — the subject of his new book — the response was furious. As he does in What Snowflakes Get Right: Free Speech, Truth, and Equality on Campus (Oxford University Press), Baer, a professor of comparative literature, German, and English at New York University, called into question some cherished notions about free speech in the United States. Read more.
A Uighur scientist faces execution as part of China’s broad persecution of a Muslim minority
Gary Langham, The Los Angeles Times, 10/18
Imagine that you are a university president, heading to Europe to launch a major new research partnership. Upon arriving at the airport, you are arrested. You are then tried in secret and sentenced to death. This is exactly what happened to Tashpolat Tiyip, former president of China’s Xinjiang University, prominent geographer and scholar, and a Uighur — an ethnic minority in China. Read more.
American student spends 4 days in Egyptian jail
Merrit Kennedy, NPR, 10/17
Now let’s meet an American who was swept up in Egypt’s crackdown on free speech. Since small protests broke out in September, human rights groups say the Egyptian government has arrested at least 3,000 people. They’re using a new tactic – searching people’s cell phones – which is how the American spent four days in jail. Read more.
France demands Iran release two of its citizens held since June
John Irish, Reuters, 10/15
France demanded on Wednesday that Iran immediately release two of its nationals who have been held in prison since June, a situation that is likely to complicate Paris’s efforts to defuse tensions between the United States and Tehran. France’s foreign ministry confirmed that Roland Marchal, a senior researcher from Science-Po university, was being detained. Read more.
Free expression and government overreach
Sigal Ben-Porath, Inside Higher Ed, 10/15
Colleges and universities must have the flexibility to deal with matters of conduct without the government looking over their shoulders. The federal government has shown a growing interest in campus speech, taking steps to manage administrative and curricular aspects of the work campuses do. Those mounting efforts to regulate speech at colleges and universities are a threat to academic freedom, and it is time for higher education to push back. Read more.
It’s not just the NBA (and other corporations): How universities are failing the China test, too
Sarah McLaughlin, New York Daily News, 10/15
If there’s any blessing to be found in the recent cowardice displayed by American sports stars and their leagues, it’s that the debate spurred by Morey’s tweet has shed light on the deference institutions outside of China are willing to show toward the sensitivities of the Chinese government. The thorny challenges posed by China’s zero-tolerance approach to criticism afflict higher education, too. Read more.
European alliance for academics at risk to be based out of Maynooth University
Carl O’Brien, The Irish Times, 10/14
A new European initiative to support hundreds of academics whose lives or careers are at risk due to discrimination, persecution or violence is to be based out of Maynooth University. A record number of academics are seeking support, such as teaching temporary posts, due to threats against their lives or careers in countries such as Turkey, Syria, Iran and Yemen. A new Europe-wide alliance for researchers at risk – InSPIREurope – will be hosted at Maynooth University in Ireland. Read more.
Iranian students barred from US: Lost money, broken dreams, no answers
Caleb Hampton and Simon Campbell, The Guardian, 10/14
On 9 September, Milad Aghajohari and much of his extended family piled into cars and drove six hours from Isfahan to Tehran’s international airport. The 22-year-old was on his way to California, set to start a PhD program at Stanford University. After wishing everyone goodbye, Aghajohari rolled his suitcases into the terminal. He handed his passport to a Turkish Airlines officer and placed his luggage on a scale. A moment later, a senior airline official pulled Aghajohari aside and showed him an email, which said it was “strictly advised” Aghajohari not board the flight. Read more.
Matthew Hedges: My UAE spy arrest shows universities must do more to protect academics working in the field
Matthew Hedges, The Conversation, 10/14
Last year I was imprisoned for nearly seven months in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). I was held predominantly in solitary confinement, endured heavy interrogations, with my human rights violated on a daily basis. During my imprisonment I was force fed drugs, battled depression and thoughts of self-harm. Later, having endured nearly half a year of isolation and mistreatment, I wrestled with thoughts of suicide. Read more.
Academics for Peace: We request our unconditional reinstatement
The Academics for Peace released a written statement on October 4. The statement underscored that 329 academics have been acquitted by local courts after the decision of the Constitutional Court that said the rights of academics were violated. “If Turkey is still a state of constitutional law, the 549 signatory academics, whose passports have been restricted and 406 of whom have been dismissed upon statutory decrees must be returned to their duties at the institutions where they worked before January 11, 2016,” the statement said. Read more.
Matthew Hedges: Universities fail to protect staff working abroad
Ellie Bothwell, Times Higher Education, 10/03
Universities may be failing to properly assess the risks of academics visiting repressive regimes because of their close relationships with these countries, according to a British researcher who was sentenced to life in prison on spying charges in the United Arab Emirates. Matthew Hedges, a PhD student specialising in Middle Eastern politics at Durham University, told Times Higher Education that there was a “clinical lack of organisation” or support regarding the preparation of academics conducting research in dangerous places. Read more.
Turkish scientist sentenced to 15-months in jail for publishing environmental study
Mike Colagrossi, Big Think, 10/03
Turkish food engineer and human rights activist,Bülent Şık was recently sentenced to 15 months in jail after he published a study that linked toxic pollution to a higher rate of cancer in western Turkey. Şık was the former deputy director of the Food Safety and Agricultural Research Center at Akdeniz University. He was convicted by the government for disclosing classified information after publishing scientific research in a Turkish newspaper back in April 2018. Read more.
Clear data from devices before travelling, academics told
Ellie Bothwell, Times Higher Education, 10/02
Academics have been advised to clear their electronic devices of confidential research data before crossing national borders, as experts claim that scholars are increasingly vulnerable to warrantless searches. David Robinson, executive director of the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT), says academics have to assume that there was “no electronic device privacy” when “crossing the border.” Read more.
Two die in student protests sparked by corruption law
Kafil Yamin, University World News, 10/02
A week after Indonesia’s House of Representatives (DPR) passed the Corruption Eradication Commission bill into law on 5 September, university students from Jakarta and elsewhere gathered in front of the House building in the capital to demand the new law be abrogated, saying it threatened democracy.The student protests have escalated into their second week with hundreds of students rallying in front of parliament. Read more.
Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize awarded to Ilham Tohti
Deutsche Welle, 09/30
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) on Monday jointly awarded its human rights prize to Chinese Uighur public intellectual Ilham Tohti and the Balkan-based Youth Initiative for Human Rights (YIHR). “In honoring them, we also send a message of hope to the millions of people they represent and for whom they work: human rights have no frontiers,” PACE president Liliane Maury Pasquier said during a prize-giving ceremony. Read more.
Academic Dan Garrett banned from Hong Kong after testifying on city’s rights situation in US
Tom Grundy, Hong Kong Free Press, 09/28
US academic Dan Garrett was barred from entering Hong Kong on Thursday, a week after he testified at the US Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) in Washington DC about the ongoing protests in the city. Garrett said he felt the move was politically motivated, as he challenged the immigration officer during his four-hours of questioning. Read more.
At Yale’s venture in Singapore, a canceled course on dissent prompts censorship claims
Shibani Mahtani, The Washington Post, 09/27
When Yale University opened its first new college in 300 years, a joint venture with the National University of Singapore, the Ivy League institution acknowledged that operating in the politically restrictive city-state would mean accepting constraints on civic freedoms. But Yale judged it worth the cost to develop a liberal arts curriculum in Asia. From the time it welcomed its first class in 2013, the Yale-NUS college did not allow partisan political groups on campus. It had to abide by local laws that prohibit protests except within a designated area of one city park known as the speakers’ corner. Even then, permits are required. Read more.
Uzbekistan: Scholar imprisoned for espionage absolved and released
A scholar in Uzbekistan imprisoned on charges of treason has been freed by court order, sparking hopes that reforms to the justice system are leading to more humane outcomes. Rights activists caution, however, that much remains to be done. Andrei Kubatin’s release follows a ruling by the Tashkent regional criminal court on September 26. He had been sentenced to 11 years in prison in 2017. That term was later reduced to five years on appeal. Read more.
Uighur students in Egypt face arrest, deportation to China
An ongoing security crackdown Uighur students in Egypt is back in the news after the opposition Conservative Party demanded the ruling regime not hand them over to the Chinese authorities. The Uighurs are a Muslim community accounting for 45% of the population of the far northwestern Chinese region of Xinjiang. The Uighurs claim the Chinese authorities are practising ethnic discrimination against them, oppressing them and imprisoning them for religious reasons. Read more.
Iranian students were accepted to U.S. schools. Then their visas were revoked without explanation
Sarah Parvini, The Los Angeles Times, 09/25
Sepideh was packing her suitcase for her move to California when a message from a friend popped up on her phone: Some Iranian students’ U.S. visas had abruptly been canceled. They couldn’t board their flights from Tehran to the United States. The 23-year-old from Tehran had been accepted into a graduate program in computer science at UC Riverside. She was supposed to fly to Los Angeles at the beginning of September. Read more.
Middle East studies program comes under federal scrutiny
Elizabeth Redden, Inside Higher Ed, 09/25
An inquiry by the U.S. Department of Education into the curricular programming of a Middle East studies center supported by federal funds has raised alarm bells in academe. Henry Reichman, the chair of the American Association of University Professors’ Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure, described the department’s inquiry into the Duke-UNC Consortium for Middle East Studies’ use of federal Title VI funds as “a chillingly inappropriate political intrusion into curricular decisions best made by faculty.” Read more.
China’s higher-ed ambitions are at odds with its tightening grip on academic freedom
Karin Fischer, The Chronicle of Higher Education, 09/24
Even as China seeks to elevate its universities to among the world’s best, its Communist government has asserted ever-tightening control of higher education, imposing a more ideological curriculum, cracking down on dissident students and scholars, and trampling on academic freedom. A new report from the Scholars at Risk Network, an international group that protects scholars and supports academic freedom worldwide, depicts the contradiction between China’s global aspirations and its rising authoritarianism. Read more.
China’s threats to academic freedom ‘pose risks’ to foreign partners
Joyce Lau, Times Higher Ed, 09/24
The limits to academic freedom imposed by the Chinese state pose risks for the nation’s scholars around the world, for the future progress of its universities and for international institutions linking with Chinese partners, according to the Scholars at Risk network. Obstacles to Excellence: Academic Freedom & China’s Quest for World Class Universities was published in English and Chinese on 24 September by SAR, an organisation based at New York University, which aims to promote academic freedom worldwide. Read more.
The growing complexities of international collaboration
Liz Reisberg, Inside Higher Ed, 09/19
Did anyone really anticipate just how complicated internationalization in higher education was going to be? The idealists among us hoped that the flow of talent around the globe would lead to multinational collaborations to speed up innovation and the development of new knowledge that would address the world’s most pressing problems and ultimately improve quality of life everywhere. We certainly underestimated the enduring legacy of political, economic, and military competition and mistrust among nations. Nor had we calculated the resurgence and effect of extremist ideology. Read more.
U.S. orders Duke and U.N.C. to recast tone in Mideast studies
Erica L. Green, The New York Times, 09/19
The Education Department has ordered Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to remake the Middle East studies program run jointly by the two schools after concluding that it was offering students a biased curriculum that, among other complaints, did not present enough “positive” imagery of Judaism and Christianity in the region. The inquiry was part of a far-reaching investigation into the program by the department, which under Betsy DeVos, the education secretary, has become increasingly aggressive in going after perceived anti-Israel bias in higher education. Read more.
A professor’s killing sends a chill through a campus in Pakistan
Ben Farmer, The New York Times, 09/17
Prof. Khalid Hameed’s devotion to teaching often led him to arrive early for work, and the day he was killed was no different. Professor Hameed, a senior English lecturer at Government Sadiq Egerton College in the Pakistani city of Bahawalpur, parked at about 8 a.m. on March 20, signed the staff room register, unlocked his office and walked in. His killer came up from behind, hitting him in the head with a heavy padlock and stabbing him several times. Read more.
Akter, 20, expelled from university for being Rohingya
Sunaina Kumar, Al Jazeera, 09/17
Rahima Akter hid her Rohingya identity to enrol at a private university in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar, but her dreams of pursuing higher education were dashed after she was suspended by her university earlier this month. The 20-year-old from Kutupalong refugee camp has become the face of the struggle of Rohingya refugees who want to study, as Bangladesh does not allow Rohingya to enrol in schools or colleges. Read more.
CEU provost: Academic freedom is in crisis everywhere in Europe, not only in Hungary
Alicia Prager, EURACTIV, 09/17
It is the start of a new semester at the Central European University (CEU) in Budapest. But this year, many of its students are preparing to move to Vienna, where lectures will start in October. It’s because CEU, a private US university founded by the Hungarian billionaire George Soros, has been kicked out of Hungary. CEU Provost Liviu Matei explains to EURACTIV Germany how CEU is responding to the political pressures in Hungary and why there is a need for a common European reference on academic freedom. Read more.
Detained Iranian-British anthropologist says charges based on government-approved research
Center for Human Rights in Iran, 09/17
Held in solitary confinement since being arrested in Tehran on August 11, 2019, Iranian-British anthropologist Kameel Ahmady will remain in detention for a minimum of several more weeks, the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) has learned. “Kameel could not speak freely [in front of the agents],” Ahmady’s wife Shafagh Rahmani told CHRI. “He said the charges against him are based on his research, even though all his work had been published with permission from the Islamic Guidance Ministry.” Read more.
Academic freedom concerns as Yale-NUS course is scrapped
Yojana Sharma, University World News, 09/16
A week-long university course on ‘modes of dissent and resistance in Singapore’ has been shelved by Yale-NUS College just weeks before it was due to be taught, in a move that has caused much debate in Singapore over whether suspending such an event contravenes the liberal arts college’s claim to uphold academic freedom. The scrapping of the course led to a statement from the president of Yale University in the United States expressing concern at any threat to academic freedom and open inquiry on the Singaporean campus. Read more.
A Uighur professor vanished and may be executed. Yet China expects respect.
The Washington Post, 09/14
When detained in China, political prisoners often disappear for months at a time. Sometimes, they reappear after lengthy interrogation, having made a coerced “confession” that is then televised. Others are less fortunate, reduced to just an announcement that they were convicted without access to family or lawyers. Still others are tortured and denied medical care and die without ever resurfacing. Given this reality, the case of Tashpolat Teyip is particularly murky and worrisome. Mr. Teyip is an ethnic Uighur professor of geography. From 2010 until 2017, he was president of Xinjiang University, the leading institution of higher learning in the Xinjiang region in northwest China. Read more.
Fighting to protect—and define—academic freedom
Robert Quinn, The American Association of University Professors, 09/13
Despite the leading work of the AAUP, academic freedom is not well respected, or even understood, in much of the United States and globally. This is evidenced in confrontations on US campuses, many of which conflate academic freedom and free speech (to the detriment of both). And it is evidenced globally in record levels of reported attacks on scholars around the world, ranging from loss of position or denial of promotion to restrictions on travel, harassment, intimidation, wrongful prosecution or imprisonment, and violence resulting in serious harm or even death.Twenty years ago, Scholars at Risk (SAR) was founded to respond to the severest of these attacks—to help threatened scholars stay alive and keep working. Read more.
Hong Kong student leader resigns and flees territory
John Ross, Times Higher Education, 09/13
A University of Hong Kong student leader has quit his post and has said he has fled the territory in the latest example of the protest movement disrupting campus life.The acting president of the Hong Kong University Students’ Union, Davin Kenneth Wong, said he had decided to leave after a masked thug attacked him with rattans late last month. He also cited attacks against protest leaders Jimmy Sham Tsz-kit and Max Chung Kin-ping, as well as the arrests of 28 activists including previous HKUSU president Althea Suen. Read more.
Academic freedom: What it is, what it isn’t and why there’s confusion
Robert Quinn, Big Think, 09/12
Academics are often attacked for having the audacity to pursue their research wherever it leads. But engaging with difficult, challenging ideas is a large part of what academia is about. Academic expression is neither free expression nor political, though it is connected to both. Because of this misunderstanding, academic expression is often attacked, not because of the quality of scholars’ ideas, but because of scholars’ audacity in sharing them. Read more.
International students bailed out colleges in the last recession. They won’t this time.
Karin Fischer, The Chronicle of Higher Education, 09/12
International students bailed out public universities during the recession that began in 2008, their tuition helping fill the budgetary hole left by state funding cuts. But as another downturn looms, colleges won’t be able to rely on students from overseas as a safety net. Several factors – including changes in American visa policy, the perception of the United States now as unwelcoming to outsiders, and the trade war with China, the largest source of foreign students – have already led to two years of declines in new international enrollments. Read more.
Former Xinjiang University president at risk of ‘imminent’ execution: Amnesty International
Radio Free Asia, 09/10
Chinese authorities may “imminently” execute the jailed former head of Xinjiang University Tashpolat Teyip, according to London-based rights group Amnesty International, which called on President Xi Jinping to intervene in his case and release him unconditionally. Teyip vanished in 2017 amid rumors he had run afoul of China’s increasingly hardline policies in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. Read more.
More academics acquitted in Turkey, sparking cautious hope
Diego Cupolo, Al Monitor, 09/10
It’s been more than three years since Ali Riza Gungen, an economics professor at 19 Mayis University in Samsun, Turkey, lost his job for signing a petition. He is one of the nearly 800 “Academics for Peace” who have faced charges of making terrorist propaganda for participating in the open letter calling for the end of military operations in southeast Turkey back in January 2016. Following a July ruling by the Constitutional Court, which found that the purged academics’ freedom of speech had been violated, Gungen was among 27 defendants acquitted of all charges. Read more.
Confucius Institutes: The growth of China’s controversial cultural branch
Pratik Jakhar, BBC, 09/07
According to China, its Confucius Institute is “a bridge reinforcing friendship” between it and the world.But to its critics the government-run body – which offers language and cultural programmes overseas – is a way for Beijing to spread propaganda under the guise of teaching, interfere with free speech on campuses and even to spy on students. In recent weeks, a flurry of universities around the world have shut down programmes operated by the institute. Read more.
Australia targets foreign influence at universities
Dennis Normile, Science Magazine, 09/06
Growing concern about foreign influence at Australia’s universities has prompted the government to launch a task force that will develop guidelines for “dealing with foreign interference.” Officials did not mention China when unveiling the panel on 28 August, but it is understood to be a reaction to fears of Chinese entities gaining access to military technology through collaborations and hacking into university computer networks. Read more.
Turkish court acquits peace petition academic of terrorist organization propaganda
Stockholm Center for Freedom, 09/06
A Turkish court ruled on Friday to acquit one of nine academics who were charged with “propaganda of a terrorist organization” for signing a 2016 letter calling for the end of a conflict in the country’s Southeast. Read more.
Nine Chinese Arizona State University students detained at LAX and sent back. ASU demands answers
Nina Agrawal, The Los Angeles Times, 09/05
Nine Chinese students who attend Arizona State University were denied entry into the U.S. when they arrived at Los Angeles International Airport last month and university officials are demanding to know why the students were sent back to China. Read more.
Hungarian Academy of Sciences turns to Constitutional Court against law taking away research institutes
Zoltán Kovács, Index, 09/04
On Monday, the President of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, László Lovász turned to the Constitutional Court to seek the annulment of the law passed in July taking away the research network from the Academy and giving control over those institutes to a newly established governing body, over which the Government has considerable influence. In the meantime, Miklós Maróth, the new president of the research network started his reign with a letter attacking researchers. Read more.
Arab political scientists find new support
Burton Bollag, Al Fanar Media, 09/03
Political science, perhaps even more than other social sciences, is the ugly duckling of the academic disciplines in the Arab World. It is reviled and mistrusted by governments unwilling to be critically examined, starved of research funds and often lacking the skills and resources of the discipline in the West, and faced with dilemmas about where and in what language to publish. In the face of these challenges, the Arab Political Science Network was created earlier this year. Read more.
Palestinian Harvard student denied entry to US finally arrives
Saba Aziz, Al Jazeera, 09/03
A Palestinian Harvard University student originally denied entry to the United States arrived on campus on Monday, just a day before classes were set to begin. Ismail Ajjawi, a 17-year-old refugee, was denied entry on August 23 and sent back to his home in Lebanon after spending hours in the Boston Logan International Airport. The teenager said he was told his visa had been cancelled by immigration officers after being questioned about politically-oriented social media posts by his friends. Read more.
Academic freedom, institutional autonomy and democracy
Sjur Bergan and Ira Harkavy, University World News, 08/31
Higher education is essential to societies and an important part of its contribution is linked to its democratic mission. The academic community fulfils this mission through its impact on broader society as well as through teaching, learning and research. Read more.
Moscow protests: Students fighting for democracy in Russia
Sarah Rainsford, BBC, 08/30
Moscow’s courts have never seen anything like it – crowds of students pouring through their doors and packing their corridors.They’ve been getting a crash course in Russia’s legal system ever since fellow students began getting arrested at street protests. Hundreds of young people have been detained during this summer’s demonstrations, in a wave of anger after opposition candidates were barred from running for seats in 8 September elections for the Moscow city parliament. Three undergraduates are among those charged with a “riot” that even the video evidence produced by investigators does not show. Read more.
Biochemistry in a conflict zone
Stav Dimitropoulos, Nature, 08/29
Eqbal Dauqan shares how she managed to conduct scientific research amid a national conflict. Yemeni biochemist Eqbal Dauqan conducted research while bombs dropped during the country’s 2015 civil war. In 2018, she won a tenure-track position at the University of Agder in Kristiansand, Norway. Alongside her research into natural antioxidants, she mentors junior scientists whose personal and political circumstances impede their professional development. Read more.
Jailed dissident economist Ilham Tohti nominated for top European human rights prize
Stuart Lau, South China Morning Post, 08/29
Jailed dissident Uygur scholar Ilham Tohti has been shortlisted for one of Europe’s top human rights prizes, focusing attention again on China’s treatment of ethnic Uygurs in its far western region of Xinjiang. Tohti, who has been serving a life sentence in China since 2014 on separatism-related charges, was nominated for the Václav Havel Human Rights Prize, alongside Buzurgmehr Yorov, a human rights lawyer in Tajikistan, and the Youth Initiative for Human Rights, a group promoting reconciliation in the Balkans. Read more.
Cases against Academics for Peace have become emblematic of the attacks on freedom of expression in Turkey
Sophia Paley, Index on Censorship, 08/28
Noémi Lévy-Aksu is an historian of the late Ottoman Empire and modern Turkey and an aspiring lawyer. She has French and Turkish citizenship and was working as an assistant professor at Boğaziçi University until 2017, when she was dismissed for signing the Academics for Peace petition. She still speaks out about her experience and she spoke with Index’s Sophia Paley about the latest developments in the challenges facing Turkish academics and their students. Read more.
Harvard student says he was barred from U.S. over his friends’ social media posts
Karen Zraick and Mihir Zaveri, The New York Times, 08/27
Ismail Ajjawi, 17, a Palestinian from Lebanon, said he was denied entry after a customs agent took issue with posts written by others. Mr. Ajjawi, a resident of Tyre, Lebanon, said that his phone and laptop were searched and that he was questioned at the airport about his friends’ social media activity. He wrote that an agent had yelled at him and “said she found people posting political points of view that oppose the U.S. on my friend list.” Read more.
Environmentalists filming Iran’s endangered cheetahs could be executed for spying
Erin Cunningham and Ben Guarino, The Independent, 08/25
The nine conservationists had embarked on one of the most ambitious wildlife projects in Iran in recent years, setting camera traps in seven provinces to monitor the critically endangered Asiatic cheetah, whose dwindling population stalks Iran’s central plateau.They worked with the government, secured the right permits and received funding and equipment from abroad. But the researchers, all Iranian, soon drew suspicion from the Revolutionary Guard, a powerful branch of Iran’s armed forces, and were arrested last year for alleged espionage. Read more.
Human rights defender and academic Dr. Abduljalil Al-Singace needs immediate medical care
The Gulf Centre for Human Rights, 08/25
Imprisoned human rights defender Dr Abduljalil Al-Singace, currently serving a life sentence in Bahrain, is suffering from mounting health problems. According to local reports, Dr Al-Singace has recently begun suffering from numbness in his fingers and his left hand shakes, in addition to having prolonged chest pain. He is unable to sleep due to the discomfort. Read more.
Tears, fear as Russian students jailed over opposition protests
France 24, 08/23
In a court on the outskirts of Moscow, fellow students of Yegor Zhukov started weeping as he delivered a speech via a video link from jail. “I don’t know if I’ll become free myself,” he said, “but Russia definitely will.” The 21-year-old is among a group of young protesters with bright futures risking criminal convictions and life-changing jail terms as Russia attempts to quell dissent. Read more.
Hong Kong university leaders urged to stand up for protesters
Jack Grove, Times Higher Ed, 08/22
University leaders in Hong Kong have been urged to rediscover their role as the city’s “moral guides” by supporting students involved in mass protests. Ahead of the new academic year, speculation has mounted about how university leaders will manage to remain outside the political fray once students return to campus, having kept largely silent during the escalation of demonstrations since June. Read more.
British Council employee’s 10-year prison sentence upheld without a hearing
Center for Human Rights in Iran, 08/21
The 10-year prison sentence issued against British Council employee Aras Amiri was upheld on August 18, 2019, without a hearing, the Center for Human Rights in Iran has learned. A student of the UK’s Kensington College of Business, Amiri, 33, was working for the British Council in London before she was arrested in Tehran in March 2018 while visiting her ailing grandmother. Read more.
Doctoral student spends third year in Iranian jail
Jonathan C Rothermel, University World News, 08/21
The third anniversary of the unjust detention of an American student in Iran was marked on 7 August. For most of us, it was just another day – but for Xiyue Wang and his family it was yet another year apart. Xiyue Wang, a Princeton University doctoral student, had been gathering archival research for his dissertation in Tehran. Despite having prior approval from the Iranian authorities to access publicly available files focusing mainly on Eurasian history of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, he was detained and later charged with espionage. Read more.
Ph.D. student prevented from leaving Egypt
Elizabeth Redden, Inside Higher Ed, 08/21
The Middle East Studies Association’s Committee on Academic Freedom wrote to Egyptian government authorities asking them to lift restrictions on travel and other probationary restrictions on Walid Khalil el-Sayed Salem, a University of Washington Ph.D. student arrested in May 2018 while conducting research for a dissertation focused on the Egyptian judiciary. Read more.
Universities must protect sensitive research from foreign governments, minister says
Paul Karp, The Guardian, 08/20
Universities will be required to work with Australian government agencies to protect sensitive research from foreign governments, Dan Tehan has confirmed. But the federal education minister has denied that the new guidelines on research collaboration will give security agencies an effective veto, as concerns about foreign influence on campuses, particularly from China, grow. Read more.
Over 270 departments in Turkish universities missing academic staff
A total of 273 departments for 78 public universities, in which 14,421 students are enrolled, do not have any academic staff, left-leaning daily Birgün said on Saturday. The report arrives amid an ongoing crackdown by Turkey on academics following the failed coup attempt of July 2016, including the thousands of signatories of a 2016 peace petition, which criticised the army operations against Kurdish militants in the southeast. The crackdown hit faculties from physics and biology to drama and politics at some of Turkey’s best universities. Read more.
After prison, academic’s university hearing a ‘test case’
Yojana Sharma, University World News, 08/16
The release on bail from jail of a prominent pro-democracy scholar in Hong Kong this week could be a test case for dwindling academic freedom in Hong Kong as university disciplinary hearings loom, academics have said. Benny Tai, a law professor at Hong Kong University, who was the co-founder of Occupy Central – the pro-democracy movement, was released from jail on Thursday 15 August with bail conditions that include not being able to travel outside Hong Kong. Read more.
Campus journalists challenge Indonesia’s limits on free press
Aisyah Llewellyn, Al Jazeera, 08/15
A trial pitting student journalists and the top official of a government-run university in this northern city has begun, in what is seen as a test case of Indonesia’s limits on censorship, free press and gay rights. Two student journalists, Yael Sinaga and Widiya Hastuti, have filed a case against Runtung Sitepu, the rector of the University of North Sumatra (USU), following their “illegal” removal from the student-run website, Suara USU (The Voice of USU), earlier this year. Read more.
US science chief sees need for even-handedness in China crackdown
Paul Basken, Times Higher Education, 08/15
The director of the US National Institutes of Health has denied any xenophobic intent in its crackdown on academic scientists with ties to China, but acknowledged that the organisation may not be looking closely enough at all of its grant recipients. At least a half-dozen scientists at three leading US universities have now been ousted, without clear explanations of their exact offences, raising concerns that the NIH and its science mission is being sidetracked by a wider government confrontation with China. Read more.
British-Iranian scholar Ahmady arrested in Tehran on unspecified charges
Radio Free Europe, 08/14
The wife of British-Iranian anthropologist Kameel Ahmady says her husband has been arrested at his home in Iran on unknown charges.Shafagh Rahmani told RFE/RL’s Radio Farda on August 14 that her husband was arrested on August 11, and that authorities told her he faces “unspecified charges in connection with his activities.” Read more.
Meeting a Russian scientist? He might need to report on you
Ivan Nechepurenko, The New York Times, 08/14
Russian scientists on Wednesday ridiculed a government plan to impose Soviet-style restrictions on their interactions with colleagues from around the world, such as seeking permission for meetings and submitting reports about each encounter with a foreign peer. Read more.
Statement in response to report the FBI is urging universities to monitor Chinese students and scholars
According to recent public reports, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and other government officials have advised some U.S. universities to develop protocols for monitoring students and scholars from Chinese state-affiliated research institutions. This move seemingly stems from growing suspicion that the Chinese government is engaged in espionage of American higher education, with the aim of stealing data and intellectual property. However, this is an area where the government must tread carefully. Read more.
The mysterious espionage case of the cheetah watchers (German)
Raniah Salloum, Der Spiegel, 08/10
Iran has held eight environmentalists for the past one and a half years. One of the allegations: they sowed “corruption on earth”. The truth probably has something to do with the Revolutionary Guard’s missile program. Read more.
Legal vindication does not end the problems for Turkey’s ‘Academics for Peace’
Mehmet Ugur, Times Higher Education, 08/09
Turkey’s Constitutional Court has ruled with a razor-thin majority that the signatories of the Academics for Peace declaration did not commit the “crime of propagandising for a terrorist organisation”. The ruling is good news for Academics for Peace and their families, whose lives have been in ruins since the declaration was published in 2016. However, there is still a lot of uncertainty about the future. Read more.
Wife of American imprisoned in Iran cites ASAP Rocky in plea for Trump’s help
Lara Jakes, The New York Times, 08/08
The wife of an American held for three years in an Iranian prison appealed to President Trump on Thursday to help secure her husband’s release, invoking Mr. Trump’s recent assistance to another detainee navigating a foreign justice system: ASAP Rocky. The wife, Hua Qu, said she has seen no progress on the case of her husband, Xiyue Wang, since the United States withdrew from a nuclear deal with Iran in May 2018. Read more.
Academic freedom matters for everyone
Emily Louise Bowman, Share America, 08/07
Universities in the United States have a long tradition of academic freedom. Robert Quinn, executive director of the U.S. nonprofit Scholars at Risk Network, calls it “the freedom to preserve truth and share information” and says it’s as vital to society as a free press. Read more.
Authoritarian shift undermines China’s science moonshot
John Ross, Times Higher Education, 08/07
China’s aspiration to be a science superpower is being thwarted by intensifying Communist Party control over universities, as funding decisions are placed in the hands of bureaucrats and academics’ fortunes are determined by their personal politics, a study says. Read more.
European rectors fear for academic freedom in Hungary
Michael Gardner, University World News, 08/06
Organisations representing university heads in Poland, Austria and Germany have addressed an urgent appeal to the Hungarian government to maintain the self-governance and academic freedom of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. Germany’s Hochschulrektorenkonferenz, the Österreichische Universitätenkonferenz – Universities Austria – and the Conference of Rectors of Academic Schools in Poland are concerned about new legislation adopted by the Hungarian parliament to reorganise the Academy. Read more.
Western academia helps build China’s automated racism
Charles Rollet, Coda Story, 08/06
Researchers in China are developing new and more invasive techniques to surveil Uyghurs. Some of their work is being supported by academia in the West. Academic papers that refine facial recognition techniques to identify Uyghurs are being published in U.S. and European academic journals and presented at international computer science conferences. Read more.
Iran: Jailed environmentalists on hunger strike
Human Rights Watch, 08/05
At least two environmental experts detained in Iran since January 2018 have likely embarked on a hunger strike to protest their continued detention after many months in legal limbo, Human Rights Watch said today. Authorities should ensure their adequate access to medical treatment. They are among eight environmentalist experts detained for over 18 months without being provided with the evidence concerning their alleged crimes and with serious due process violations. Read more.
Activist who branded Uganda president ‘a dirty, delinquent dictator’ is jailed
Alon Mwesigwa, The Guardian, 08/02
Stella Nyanzi, the Ugandan women’s rights activist and staunch government critic who once called head of state Yoweri Museveni “a pair of buttocks”, has received an 18-month jail sentence after she was found guilty of cyber harassment against the president. Nyanzi, a former researcher at Makerere University, was arrested on 2 November after posting a poem on Facebook that the state deemed abusive towards Museveni and his late mother. Read more.
American graduates of China’s Yenching Academy are being questioned by the FBI
Emily Feng, NPR, 08/01
American graduates of the prestigious Yenching Academy, a one- to two-year master’s degree program housed at Beijing’s elite Peking University, are being approached and questioned by the FBI about the time they spent in China. In the last two years, at least five Yenching graduates have been approached by agents to gather intelligence on the program and to ascertain whether they have been co-opted by Chinese espionage efforts. Read more.
Palestinian universities say Israeli restrictions force foreign professors out
Tarek Abd El-Galil, Al-Fanar Media, 08/01
The Israeli authorities increasingly are refusing to issue work permits for foreign academics who work in Palestinian universities in the occupied West Bank, education officials and human rights organizations say. Some 32 foreign and Palestinian professors and lecturers with foreign passports working at eight Palestinian universities have been subjected to Israeli harassment regarding getting visas to enter or stay in the Palestinian territories, according to a study published last year by the Palestinian Ministry of Education and Higher Education. Read more.
Court ruling highlights divide in Turkish academia
Diego Cupolo, Al-Monitor, 07/31
On Friday, July 26, Turkey’s Constitutional Court ruled that legal proceedings against a group of purged academics violated their freedom of speech, drawing applause from rights advocates and condemnation from a separate group of pro-government academics. The defendants were among 2,200 Academics for Peace who were persecuted for signing a peace declaration opposing Turkish military operations in the nation’s southeast in 2016. Read more.
Trump renews amorphous free speech threat to campuses
Paul Basken, Times Higher Education, 07/31
Donald Trump is amplifying his amorphous threats to cut off federal aid to colleges deemed to be failing to protect free speech – but the practical impact of the threats may be secondary to their political impact, ahead of next year’s election. Read more.
Academic for Peace Tuna Altınel released
A Balıkesir court has ruled for the release of Assoc. Prof. Altınel without judicial control measures. He is charged with “membership of a terrorist organization” for interpreting speeches at a conference. Read more.
Chinese nationalists bring threat of violence to Australia universities
Damien Cave, The New York Times, 07/30
A clash with Hong Kong supporters at a student protest could be a dark omen of what’s to come.The Chinese nationalists disrupting pro-Hong Kong democracy rallies at the University of Queensland arrived 300 strong, with a speaker to blast China’s national anthem. They deferred to a leader in a pink shirt. And their tactics included violence. Read more.
‘No anti-nationalism’ clause threatens critical thinking
Khinvraj Jangid, University World News, 07/27
One of the clauses of a recent unilateral ordinance in Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, is intended to restrict the autonomy of 29 private universities and concerns freedom of thought and critical thinking. According to the proposed draft of the ordinance, these universities must ensure that no ‘anti-national’ activities (no definition given) will take place on their premises. Read more.
No passage to Palestinian universities
Elizabeth Redden, Inside Higher Ed, 07/26
Roger Heacock first started teaching at Birzeit University, a Palestinian institution in the occupied West Bank, in 1985. An American citizen, Heacock built a career and raised three children there. For many years he came and went largely without incident, renewing his visa every three months. But over the past couple of years, Palestinian universities and human rights groups say, it’s become increasingly difficult for foreigners like Heacock who work in the West Bank to get permission from Israel, which controls access to the Palestinian territories, to renew their visas, or to come there to teach in the first place. Read more.
Turkish court rules academics’ rights violated in Kurdish letter case: Anadolu
Ali Kucukgocmen, Reuters, 07/26
Turkey’s highest court on Friday ruled the sentencing of nine academics for signing a letter in 2016 that called for an end to the conflict in the country’s southeast amounted to a violation of their rights, state-owned Anadolu agency said. The academics were accused of spreading terrorist propaganda for signing an open letter titled “We will not be a party to this crime!”. Read more.
Hungary’s Viktor Orban and the rewriting of history
Valerie Hopkins, The Financial Times, 07/25
On a bright morning in early June, Janos Rainer was taking his daughter’s pet parrot to the vet when he received a call that could change, if not Hungary’s modern history, then how it is written and taught. “Have you heard the news?” his colleague asked as the parrot chirped noisily in the back. “The Institute is over.” Until that moment, Mr. Rainer had been unaware of government plans to fold the 1956 Institute, the historical research centre he directed and which is dedicated to the Hungarian uprising against the Soviet Union, into a body close to the government of Viktor Orban, Hungary’s conservative premier. Read more.
Hong Kong and mainland China students clash at rally at Australian university
John Power, South China Morning Post, 07/24
Students from Hong Kong and mainland China clashed during a pro-democracy protest at a university in Australia on Wednesday. Scuffles broke out between opposing groups at the University of Queensland in Brisbane after pro-democracy students staged a sit-in supporting the extradition bill protests in Hong Kong and also condemning China’s treatment of Uygurs in Xinjiang. Read more.
‘The era of people like you is over’: How Turkey purged its intellectuals
Suzy Hansen, The New York Times, 07/24
For more than a century, one school of political science dominated the education of Turkey’s governing class — until the Erdogan regime set about destroying it. Ilhan Uzgel learned he had been fired while driving his Honda Civic from the village of Ayas to Ankara, after a visit to his ailing, elderly father. A little after midnight, one of his former research assistants called his cellphone. “Ilhan hocam,” the student said, using a Turkish honorific (“my teacher”) bestowed on educators. “Your name was on the list.” Read more.
UK academic accused of spying in UAE lodges complaint with UN
Nazia Parveen, The Guardian, 07/23
Matt Hedges, a British academic who was kept in solitary confinement in the United Arab Emirates for almost six months after being accused of spying, has lodged a legal complaint with the UN over his treatment. Hedges has alleged he was regularly interrogated and subjected to degrading and inhuman treatment including threats of torture if he did not comply. Read more.
Scottish student fined for giving feminism lecture in Siberia
The Moscow Times, 07/22
A Scottish exchange student was fined and briefly detained for giving a lecture on feminism in Siberia in the latest incident targeting foreign students in Russia. Last month, a German student was reported to have been expelled from a Russian university and ordered to leave the country after writing an article about environmental protests. Read more.
Support Professor Benny Tai and the University of Hong Kong’s autonomy
Members of academia are invited to express their support for imprisoned legal scholar Benny Tai Yiu-Ting (戴耀廷), an associate professor at the University of Hong Kong (HKU) Faculty of Law, who is at risk of dismissal. Read more.
Call for Europe-wide ‘academic freedom defence’ to meet Orbán threat
Ellie Bothwell, Times Higher Education, 07/18
European governments must protest “loudly and clearly” against abuses of academic freedom in Hungary or risk other authoritarian states constricting the independence of scholarly institutions, university leaders and researchers have warned in response to the Orbán government’s latest moves. Read more.
Harvard president challenges Trump immigration crackdown
Paul Basken, Times Higher Education, 07/18
Harvard University’s president, Lawrence Bacow, has joined an array of leading institutions protesting against the Trump administration’s immigration policies, saying that the government’s crackdown is harming a wide range of his students and faculty. Read more.
Jailed Uighur scholar’s daughter pleads for his freedom
Nike Ching, Voice of America, 07/17
“My father is a fixer, a bridge-builder, a connector. He knows that a better future is one where Han Chinese and Uighur children are in school together, are friends together and have the same opportunities,” said Jewher Ilham, who pleaded for the release of her father, prominent jailed Uighur scholar and economist Ilham Tohti. She also petitioned Chinese authorities to release all Uighur girls from so-called re-education camps before Beijing hosts the 2022 Winter Olympics. Read more.
Turkey journalists and activist acquitted of terrorism charges
A Turkish court has acquitted two journalists and a human rights activist of terrorism charges. The three defendants had been accused of spreading terrorist propaganda for their work with a Kurdish newspaper, which has since been closed down. But the three maintained they were defending free speech amid a clampdown by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Read more.
Should academic freedom extend to non-faculty academics?
Edward J. Maloney and Joshua Kim, Inside Higher Ed, 07/16
Should academic freedom extend to non-faculty academics? The concept of academic freedom developed at a time when there was a bright dividing line between faculty and staff. Institutions were growing in size, and supporting students required more and more work from faculty who were already overburdened by greater disciplinary specialization. Staff roles grew to take on this support of students and institutional administration. Read more.
France demands access to dual-national academic held in Iran
Angelique Chrisafis and Jennifer Rankin, The Guardian, 07/15
France has demanded immediate consular access to a senior French-Iranian academic who has been arrested in Iran. Fariba Adelkhah, a prominent researcher in anthropology and social sciences based at the Paris political institute Sciences Po, is believed to have been arrested in June. The detention risks increasing tension between Paris and Tehran at a critical moment in the crisis over Iran’s nuclear deal. Read more.
Will China tighten constraints on Hong Kong universities?
Futao Huang, University World News, 07/13
Large numbers of academics, researchers and students participated in or supported recent demonstrations in Hong Kong. Deep concerns have been expressed about whether mainland China is likely to impose more restrictive control on Hong Kong universities, academics and students. Read more.
Israel blocks international academics in West Bank, Gaza
Brendan O’Malley, University World News, 07/11
Two NGOs have accused Israel of preventing international academics from working at universities in Occupied Palestinian Territory by preventing them from entering the country and refusing to renew visas for those with teaching contracts in the West Bank and Gaza. The NGOs, Adalah and Al-Haq, have launched a campaign with Birzeit University to end the “escalating discriminatory Israeli policy.” Read more.
Keep the fume hoods going
Rachel Brazil, Chemistry World, 07/11
For chemists in politically and economically unstable countries, life is a struggle. Working with few resources and little funding, often against a backdrop of protests, even the basics of daily life can be hard. On top of this, international sanctions designed to pressure, restrict or penalise their governments hamper scientists’ work and cut them off from the wider chemistry community. Read more.
Iran: Urgent medical treatment needed for detainees with life-threatening conditions – UN experts
UN human rights experts today expressed serious concern that Iran continues to deny appropriate healthcare to detainees, despite repeated calls. “Over several months we have communicated to the Iranian Government our deep concerns about the physical and mental integrity of detainees,” the experts said. “Despite Government assurances, we are frustrated to still receive reports of denial of medical treatment, including in life-threatening situations. These no longer appear to be isolated incidents, but a consistent pattern.” Read more.
SAR Spotlight on Mayda Hočevar
Scholars at Risk, 07/09
In this SAR Spotlight, we spoke with Professor Mayda Hočevar about how current humanitarian and political crises are impacting the quality of higher education in Venezuela and recent efforts to advocate for academic freedom and institutional autonomy in Latin America. Read more.
Hungarian government takes control of research institutes despite outcry
Alison Abbott, Nature, 07/08
After months of struggle between Hungary’s research ministry and its scientific community, the nation’s parliament ratified a law on 2 July that gives the government control over the 40 or so institutes belonging to the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (HAS). The international scientific community continues to protest against the takeover, saying it will harm science. Read more.
Time to talk, Hong Kong university leaders tell combatants
John Ross, Times Higher Education, 07/08
Hong Kong university leaders have assumed the peacemaker’s role amid failed efforts to orchestrate talks between the troubled territory’s opposing parties. In an open letter, Chinese University of Hong Kong president Rocky Tuan warned of dire consequences unless a new forum was created to facilitate “constructive and effective dialogues between the government and citizens from different age groups, social backgrounds and political persuasions”. Read more.
Turkey’s crackdown on academics represses history once again
Brennan Cusack, The New York Times, 07/08
For the past two decades, the Turkish academic Ayse Gul Altinay has been providing, through her writing and research, incisive analysis of the impact of violence on her country. Her work offered a better understanding of how conflict has passed through generations and was beginning to build a blueprint on how to break this cycle. But last May, the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sentenced Ms. Altinay, a professor of anthropology and director of Sabanci University Gender and Women’s Studies Center of Excellence, to 25 months in prison. Read more.
Turkey crackdown ‘will have knock-on effect’ for research quality
Simon Baker, Times Higher Education, 07/07
Turkey’s higher education system is close to a point where “bad science” is driving out “good science” owing to the “atmosphere of fear” that has descended on the country’s universities in the wake of a crackdown on academics. That is the view of one scholar, who believes that events in the past few years have tipped research incentives against “creative” and “critical” scholarship, with major implications for future research quality. Read more.
Academic freedom: A helping hand
Craig Nicholson, Research Europe, 07/04
Persecuted and at-risk academics need more support. According to the UN, during 2018, more than 70 million people around the world were forcibly displaced as a result of persecution, conflict, violence or human rights violations. Among them are academics forced to flee their home countries, either because of widespread unrest or specific threats to the academic community. Read more.
Academics split on risk to universities after Hong Kong protests
John Ross, Times Higher Education, 07/04
Opinion is divided over whether the storming of Hong Kong’s Legislative Council building will lead to reduced freedoms for the territory’s universities. William Tierney, Wilbur-Kieffer professor of higher education at the University of Southern California, said the violent end to protests against a controversial extradition bill posed “severe threats” for universities. Read more.
Turkey cuts scholarships of students detained during Pride march
Turkish authorities stripped the scholarships of several Middle East Technical University students detained during an LGBTI pride march on the university campus in May, T-24 news site reported on Tuesday. The Credit and Dormitories Institution (KYK) within Turkey’s Ministry of Education ended the scholarships and required the students to pay their accumulated tuition fees to the institution. Read more.
Hungarian Academy of Sciences stripped of its research network
Zoltán Kovács, Index, 07/02
On Tuesday, the Fidesz supermajority in the Hungarian Parliament passed a bill submitted by the Ministry of Innovation and Technology that ends the year-long struggle for the research institutes of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. The new law takes the entire research network away from the Academy and hands them to a new organisation that gets to use the Academy’s property without remuneration. Read more.
Letter: Families cite seven law violations in cases of detained wildlife conservationists
Center for Human Rights in Iran, 07/02
Iran’s judiciary has violated at least seven laws in its handling of the cases of eight wildlife conservationists who’ve been detained on unfounded espionage charges since January 2017, according to the detainees’ families. In a letter addressing Chief Justice Ebrahim Raisi, the families noted violations including torture, reliance on forced false “confessions” in the place of evidence, denial of counsel, and denial of bail. Read more.
‘Psychological fear’: MIT scientists of Chinese origin protest toxic US climate
Elie Dolgin, Nature, 07/02
Researchers describe how a government crackdown on foreign influence is affecting them following a statement of support from their university. Immunologist Jianzhu Chen was heading home from Singapore in May, when a US customs agent pulled him aside and asked: do you work for a foreign government? Chen is a Chinese-born US citizen who has worked at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge for 25 years. Read more.
Peace petition signatories face continued prosecutions
Elizabeth Redden, Inside Higher Ed, 07/01
In January 2016, more than 2,000 academics signed a strongly worded petition calling for a resumption of the peace process and an end to what they described as the “deliberate massacre and deportation of Kurdish and other peoples” in the southeastern region of Turkey, where the Turkish military was waging a campaign against militants affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers Party (the PKK). It was a petition more or less like any other that an antiwar academic might sign. But for the act of signing it, more than 700 scholars have been criminally charged with making propaganda for a terrorist organization. Read more.
Australian student is missing in North Korea, his family says
Jamie Tarabay, The New York Times, 06/27
The family of an Australian man studying at a university in North Korea said on Thursday that it had lost contact with him in recent days, and Australian officials said they were “urgently seeking clarification” about his whereabouts. Read more.
West ‘failed’ university forced from Hungary
Sean Coughlan, BBC, 06/27
The head of a university forced out of Hungary said Western governments have been “remarkably weak” in defending the right to academic freedom. Michael Ignatieff, president of the Central European University, said it was a “scandal” that his university had been allowed to be “driven out.” Read more.
Judging universities by how free they are
Janika Spannagel, The Global Public Policy Institute, 06/26
Well-established university rankings rate universities across the world for their excellence in research and teaching – why do we need a separate measurement of academic freedom? The key problem is that academic freedom is distinct from academic excellence. Read more.
Egypt: Chilling wave of arbitrary arrests as authorities intensify crackdown on critics and opponents
Amnesty International, 06/25
The Egyptian authorities have in the last 48 hours arbitrarily arrested at least eight individuals including a former member of parliament, opposition party leaders, journalists and activists in an escalating crackdown on opposition and civil society in the country, Amnesty International said. Read more.
Honduras protests: Military police open fire on students injuring four
Honduran military police opened fire on students protesting at a university in the capital, Tegucigalpa, injuring at least four people, officials say. Hundreds of people, many wearing face masks, were demanding the resignation of President Juan Orlando Hernández. Read more.
The threat of war brings new fears to an American hostage in Iran
Laura Dean, The New Yorker, 06/24
In late August, 2016, three weeks after her husband, Xiyue Wang, disappeared in Iran, Hua Qu received a telephone call. She heard a pre-recorded announcement in Farsi: “Dear caller, this is a phone call from an inmate in Evin Prison.” The message repeated itself every two minutes, interrupting her husband, a graduate student at Princeton University who had gone to Iran to research his doctoral dissertation. Read more.
Embrace voluntary free speech code or else, Australian v-cs told
John Ross, Times Higher Education, 06/23
Australia’s government has stepped up pressure on universities to adopt a voluntary free speech code recommended by an independent reviewer after rejecting another of the reviewer’s optional recommendations. Read more.
Kuwait: Prominent advocate of Bedoon rights, Dr. Ebtehal Al-Khateeb, targeted by Twitter campaign
The Gulf Centre for Human Rights, 06/23
On 10 April 2019, academic and human rights defender Dr. Ebtehal Al-Khateeb delivered a speech at a symposium organised by the Kuwait Democratic Forum under the title “Lights on the Bedoon issue.” As a result, she was the target of a vicious Twitter campaign. Read more.
German foreign minister lobbies for refugee higher education
Seda Serdar, Deutsche Welle, 06/19
Only 1% of refugees worldwide have access to higher education; Heiko Maas calls the figure “frighteningly low.” The UN’s German-financed “Einstein Initiative” aims to up the number by 2030, but much more must be done. Read more.
Kenya court convicts three over Garissa University massacre
Al Jazeera, 06/19
A Kenyan court has found three men guilty of abetting al-Shabab fighters who carried out a university attack that killed 148 people, mostly students, four years ago. The convicted face life sentences and will be sentenced on July 3, the first to face justice for the April 2, 2015 attack on Garissa University in northeast Kenya. Read more.
Academics join outcry sparked by Hong Kong’s contentious extradition bill
Andrew Silver, Nature, 06/18
Hong Kong’s government has suspended an unpopular bill that would legalize the extradition of people from the island to mainland China, but protesters want it withdrawn. Researchers say the plan to extradite people to mainland China could stifle academic debate. Read more.
Closer China-Russia ties ‘could shift academic freedom norms’
Nick Mayo, Times Higher Education, 06/18
Growing scholarly collaboration between China and Russia could signal a shift in the balance of power in global higher education, according to researchers who suggested that it could have significant implications for academic freedom in the region. Read more.
Syrian higher education in meltdown after eight-year civil war
Matthew Reisz, Times Higher Education, 06/18
New research calls for greater support for exiled academics with a view to rebuilding the system. As Syria’s civil war has dragged the country further into chaos, the flow of refugee academics and students has indicated that universities will have suffered serious – perhaps irreparable – damage. Read more.
Teng Biao on human rights in China: ‘I cannot be silent, and I cannot give up’
Summer Dosch, Index on Censorship, 06/18
“I realised that I had been cheated by the Chinese government,” legal scholar Teng Biao said describing his drive to pursue a career in human rights law. Teng said that he was motivated by the Tiananmen Square movement, the student-led protests that bloomed after the death of pro-reform communist leader Hu Yaobang in April 1989. Read more.
German student expelled and told to leave Russia after writing article about protests
The Moscow Times, 06/17
A German exchange student has reportedly been expelled from a Russian university and ordered to leave the country after writing an article about environmental protests. Read more.
Punishing alleged violations of tenure, academic freedom and governance
Colleen Flaherty, Inside Higher Ed, 06/17
The American Association of University Professors voted to censure two institutions for alleged violations of academic freedom and tenure at its annual meeting Saturday in Washington. It sanctioned a third administration for deviating from AAUP-supported norms of shared governance. Read more.
Academic freedom: Universities must take a stance or risk becoming complicit with Chinese government interference
Marina Svensson and Eva Pils, The Conversation, 06/14
After 1989, the Chinese government stepped up its control over students through “patriotic” education campaigns. It also imposed more restrictions on scholars. Yet academics working in universities, think-tanks and NGOs have, over the years, continued to expose and criticise systemic injustices. Read more.
Collision of interests
Keith D. Renshaw, Inside Higher Ed, 06/13
Last spring, George Mason University experienced a swirling controversy around gift agreements. A student group filed a lawsuit against the George Mason University Foundation, and President Ángel Cabrera disclosed that a number of gift agreements contained clauses giving donors potential input on faculty hiring and evaluation of faculty activity. Read more.
Hungary eyes science research as latest target for state control
Shaun Walker, The Guardian, 06/13
The Hungarian government is moving to bring the country’s umbrella scientific research organisation under its control, in what scientists in the country and globally say would be an unprecedented assault on academic freedoms. Read more.
Ignatieff condemns West for failure to protect CEU
Paul Basken, Times Higher Education, 06/13
Michael Ignatieff, the besieged president of Central European University, blasted Western powers for not doing enough to prevent Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán from forcing his institution out of Budapest. Read more.
University presidents urge calm as conflict intensifies
Mimi Leung, University World News, 06/12
In an unusual joint statement, presidents of 10 of Hong Kong’s main universities expressed concern about the “intensifying conflicts and tension in the community” as the city was convulsed by protests against a proposed bill to allow extraditions to mainland China. Read more.
Ortega government frees jailed leaders of 2018 protests in Nicaragua
Ismael Lopez Ocampo and Mary Beth Sheridian, The Washington Post, 06/11
Nicaraguan authorities on Tuesday freed 56 people detained during a harsh crackdown on dissent last year. Among those freed were prominent figures in the protests, including Amaya Coppens, a student leader, and Medardo Mairena, a rural movement organizer. Read more.
South Sudanese sentenced from Blue House uprising
Waakhe Simon Wudu, Voice of America, 06/11
South Sudan’s high court in Juba sentenced a prominent peace activist and economist Tuesday to two years in prison after he was accused of inciting an uprising while behind bars in the notorious “Blue House” prison. Nyathon Hotmai, the wife of peace activist and economist Peter Biar Ajak, broke down in tears as Judge Sumaiya Saleh Abdallah announced Biar’s sentence. Read more.
Sudanese academics defiant as revolution turns bloody
Antoaneta Roussi, Nature, 06/11
Sudan’s universities are shut, flights have been suspended and the internet remains almost entirely blocked after a brutal crackdown in which paramilitaries are thought to have killed some 100 pro-democracy protesters. A number of politicians opposed to the current military-backed government were also arrested. But none of this has dented the resolve of the protestors, whose ranks include several prominent academics. Read more.
The New School’s leader on global goals and what lies ahead
Alina Tugend, The New York Times, 06/07
The New School, in New York City, is one of the most international universities in the country. Of its approximately 10,000 students, about 34 percent are from outside the United States, the majority of those from China. Read more.
Universities seek solidarity against populism (German)
Amory Burchard, Der Tagesspiegel, 06/06
What social responsibility do universities have as part of their so-called “Third Mission?” How political can they be? These questions, which will be addressed by the Global University Leaders Council on Friday, have already been answered in Brazil. Read more.
Hungarians protest against proposed government takeover of science
Thousands of scientists and their supporters marched through the streets of Budapest on 2 June to protest against a proposed law that would give the Hungarian government direct control of the country’s top research institutes. Read more.
Mehmet Ugur: We will eventually see an erosion of the authoritarian, nationalist and fascist elements in Turkey
Jessica Ni Mhainin, Index on Censorship, 06/05
As of 29 May 2019, 724 members of Academics for Peace are on trial and facing imprisonment. Mehmet Ugur, a member of Academics for Peace and professor of economics and Institutions at University of Greenwich, spoke with Index on Censorship about the current situation for Turkish academics. Read more.
30 years after Tiananmen, China still suspicious of student-labor ties
Bill Ide and Joyce Huang, Voice of America, 06/04
Tuesday marks three decades since China’s ruling communist leaders launched a bloody crackdown on peaceful protesters in the capital of Beijing. It has never been clear how many were killed when soldiers were sent in to silence the protests in and around Tiananmen Square and discussion about what happened remains one of China’s biggest taboos to this day. Read more.
What it’s like to live with a foot in China, another in the U.S.
Steve Inskeep, Emily Feng, Reena Advani, Ashley Westerman, and Amara Omeokwe, National Public Radio, 06/04
Chinese students in the U.S. live under suspicion from both their host and home countries. A U.S. university is building a satellite campus in China and strains to manage the limits on academic freedom. A U.S.-based employee of the major Chinese tech company Huawei says he has lost friends over his job. Read more.
Academic freedom under threat in Turkey and the trials of Academics for Peace Episode 1 (Podcast)
Central European University, 06/01
This podcast is dedicated to Academics for Peace in Turkey who have been facing trials for stating “We will not be a party to this crime.” In this episode, we will provide context for the movement and read sections of defense speeches from academics who have stood trial. Read more.
Blowback for Huawei bans
Colleen Flaherty, Inside Higher Ed, 05/31
More and more research institutions are cutting their ties to Huawei, the Chinese telecommunications powerhouse, either officially or unofficially. And institutions have reasons to be wary of research money from the world’s largest supplier of telecom equipment, given that Huawei’s been accused of serious crimes in the U.S. Read more.
Fear of campus Islamophobia after Easter bombings
Dinesh De Alwis, University World News, 05/31
The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka or HRCSL has requested the University Grants Commission, which oversees universities, to ensure non-discrimination in higher education institutions, in the aftermath of the Easter Sunday attacks on churches and hotels in the country by Islamic fundamentalists, which left more than 257 people dead and at least 500 injured. Read more.
How university labs landed on the front lines of the fight with China
Lindsay Ellis and Neil Gluckman, The Chronicle of Higher Education, 05/31
The email sparked panic. “Effective immediately, the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine is temporarily halting the appointment of visiting scientists,” wrote a medical-school administrator to the neurology department last fall. Researchers who saw it felt they knew what it was really about: China. Read more.
Academic freedom at risk in Italy
David Matthews, Inside Higher Ed, 05/30
Calls by Italy’s far-right governing party for a book about it to be removed from a university reading list have been met with limited resistance, Italian academics have warned, opening the door for further attacks on academic freedom in the future. Read more.
Iraq: Dean and two professors of the College of Media at the University of Baghdad threatened after fighting corruption
The Gulf Centre for Human Rights, 05/29
In the past week in Iraq, the dean of the College of Media at the University of Baghdad, and two members of the faculty who have been fighting corruption, have received threats for their work from a daily newspaper, online sources and unknown telephone calls. Read more.
Turkey frees former NASA scientist from prison: ruling
Ali Kucukgocmen, Reuters, 05/29
Turkey has released Turkish-American, former NASA scientist Serkan Golge from jail with conditions, according to a court ruling seen by Reuters on Wednesday, in a step that could lead to an easing of tensions in Ankara’s relations with Washington. Read more.
Defying scientists, Hungary will overhaul academic network, website reports
Hungary is preparing legislation to strip the Hungarian Academy of Sciences of its research network, giving the government more control over scientific activity, the news website index.hu reported on Tuesday. Read more.
‘If I disappear’: Chinese students make farewell messages amid crackdowns over labor activism
Gerry Shih, The Washington Post, 05/25
The video opens with the 21-year-old sociology student facing the camera. His voice quivers as he recounts his interrogation — his humiliation — for days at the hands of Beijing police. The officials pressured him to quit labor activism and drop out of Peking University, he says. Read more.
A donor’s demands, a revoked chair
Elizabeth Redden, Inside Higher Ed, 05/24
A professor at the American University in Cairo is in a dispute with the university over the cancellation of his endowed chair after, he says, he refused to accede to the requests of the original donor’s son that he send him lectures in advance and that he encourage his non-Muslim students to convert to Islam. Read more.
Academics fight back in exile (German)
Luise Samman, Deutschlandfunk Kultur, 05/23
In Turkey, they face imprisonment. Many scientists have fled to Germany. From exile, they remain active and follow developments in their homeland with concern. Read more.
Case of ‘white supremacist’ professor raises debate about free speech vs. hate speech on campus
A University of New Brunswick professor accused of being a white supremacist should have the academic freedom to pursue whichever ideas he wants, according to one academic.”We should be free, all of us, to explore ideas as we will,” said Mark Mercer, a philosophy professor at Saint Mary’s University in Nova Scotia, and the president of the Society for Academic Freedom and Scholarship. Read more.
Denial of a US visa to Hanan Ashrawi
Middle East Studies Association, 05/22
We write on behalf of the Middle East Studies Association of North America (MESA) and its Committee on Academic Freedom to express our dismay over the State Department’s decision to deny Dr. Hanan Ashrawi a visa to enter the United States. Dr. Ashrawi travels to the United States regularly to visit family as well to speak about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at university and college campuses and elsewhere. She has never been refused a visa in the past. Read more.
House panel advances bill calling for release of Saudi activists
William Roberts, Al Jazeera, 05/22
A committee of the US House of Representatives has advanced a resolution condemning Saudi Arabia’s imprisonment of 11 women’s rights activists facing trial for political activism. The House Foreign Affairs Committee voted to approve and send to the House floor for consideration House Resolution 129 condemning Saudi imprisonment and abuse of female activists. Read more.
One academic sentences to 2 years, 1 month in prison
Tansu Pişkin, Bianet, 05/22
Having her final hearing at the İstanbul 25th Heavy Penal Court, Academic for Peace Ayşe Gül Altınay has been sentenced to 2 years and 1 month in prison on charge on “knowingly and willingly aiding a terrorist organization as a non-member.” Read more.
I criticized Poland’s government. Now it’s trying to ruin me
Wojciech Sadurski, The Washington Post, 05/21
Over the past six months, the Polish government’s propaganda machine has repeatedly denounced me as an enemy and traitor. But it hasn’t left it at that. Various authorities and institutions have also sued and prosecuted me. Read more.
US scientists plead for clarity on foreign collaboration rules
Paul Basken, Times Higher Education, 05/20
US research universities are pleading for the Trump administration, as it cracks down on research relationships with foreign nationals, to make clear exactly what is and is not allowed. Campus administrators and scientists – after months of government-led investigations, scholar bans and evictions of foreign nationals from labs – are feeling trapped by unclear or conflicting rules. Read more.
X-ing out Xinjiang
Elizabeth Redden, Inside Higher Ed, 05/20
In yet another case of alleged censorship in the China studies field, a scholar says a journal editor censored his book review by requesting the deletion of an opening paragraph that contextualized the book in light of Chinese Communist Party policy toward members of the Uighur ethnic minority group in the region of Xinjiang. Read more.
International solidarity with arrested Academic for Peace Tuna Altınel
The students and colleagues of Academic for Peace Assoc. Prof. Tuna Altınel, who has been behind bars since May 11, have established a committee of solidarity for the academic at the Lyon-1 University in France. Read more.
Unionists ‘attacking Queen’s University academics’ free speech’
Robbie Meredith, BBC, 05/17
The union that represents the majority of lecturers at Queen’s University Belfast has accused some unionist parties and politicians of attacks on academic freedom. The University and College Union said they were aimed at gagging academics, especially over Brexit. Read more.
Occupy poster boy Joshua Wong returns to jail in Hong Kong despite winning appeal for lighter sentence
Chris Lau, South China Morning Post, 05/16
Hong Kong student activist Joshua Wong Chi-fung was thrown back in jail on Thursday despite winning an appeal for a lighter sentence over a conviction related to the 2014 Occupy protests. Read more.
China fears could feed broader US clampdown on research sharing
Paul Baskan, Times Higher Education, 05/15
Concerns about theft of intellectual property by China could lead to a broader clampdown on dissemination of US universities’ research findings. Chuck Grassley, the chair of the US Senate’s Finance Committee, is leading an effort to push federal funding agencies to explain how they are preventing “potential foreign actors” and “foreign threats” from acquiring research findings. Read more.
American University Cairo religion professor loses post in academic freedom fight
Gilgamesh Nabeel and Mina Nader, Religion News Service, 05/14
A Saudi billionaire whose father endowed a chair in comparative religion at the American University in Cairo has pressured the school to take the position away from an American scholar teaching Egyptian students about religions other than Islam, sources told Religion News Service. Read more.
Paramilitary force attacks Tehran University protest against hijab enforcement units
Center for Human Rights in Iran, 05/13
Members of Iran’s paramilitary Basij force violently attacked several students at a peaceful protest at the University of Tehran on May 13, 2019. The demonstrators had gathered to protest the increased presence of so-called “guidance” units charged by the government to enforce strict observance of Iran’s compulsory hijab law at the campus. Read more.
Harvard’s first black faculty deans let go amid uproar over Harvey Weinstein defense
Kate Taylor, The New York Times, 05/11
Harvard said on Saturday that a law professor who has represented Harvey Weinstein would not continue as faculty dean of an undergraduate house after his term ends on June 30, bowing to months of pressure from students. Read more.
Viktor Orbán’s war on intellect
Franklin Foer, The Atlantic, 05/08
On a relentlessly gray Budapest morning, Michael Ignatieff took me to the rooftop of Central European University’s main building. The newly erected edifice is all glass, sharp angles, exposed steel, and polished wood. Its roof had been landscaped with billowing grasses and fitted with iron benches, as if a section of New York City’s High Line had been transported to Hungary. Read more.
Occupy sentences land Hong Kong with academic freedom test
Ellie Bothwell, Times Higher Education, 05/08
Academics are watching to see how the University of Hong Kong will respond after one of its scholars was jailed for his role in 2014 protests. Benny Tai, an associate professor in the University of Hong Kong’s Faculty of Law, was among nine political activists convicted last month for their roles in organising the pro-democracy demonstration, which lasted 79 days in late 2014. Read more.
Sentenced academic Üstel: ‘We are at where word begins, not ends’
Tansu Pişkin, Bianet, 05/07
Academics have gathered for Prof. Füsun Üstel, a signatory of the Peace Declaration whose 15-month prison term was approved by the İstanbul Regional Court of Justice 3rd Penal Chamber. Read more.
In Brazil, a hostility to the academe
Elizabeth Redden, Inside Higher Ed, 05/06
In the past 10 days, new president has proposed defunding philosophy and sociology departments and announced ideologically motivated cuts to federal university budgets. First, they announced they were considering withdrawing funding from sociology and philosophy programs. Read more.
UN experts urge Iran to release imprisoned American scholar Xiyue Wang
UN experts firmly request Iran to immediately release American academic Xiyue Wang, whose arbitrary detention for nearly three years was a clear violation of fundamental rights guaranteed under international law, they said. Wang, a doctoral student at Princeton University and an American citizen born in China, was arrested in August 2016 in Iran, where he was researching for his PhD on Eurasian history. Read more.
Colliding values at Doane
Colleen Flaherty, Inside Higher Ed, 05/06
University library exhibit included photos of students from the 1920s in blackface. Now the library director is suspended — and some of her faculty colleagues say Doane made the wrong call. Read more.
A year after his unjust detainment in the UAE, Matthew Hedges fight for academic freedom is not over
Darren Nair, The Independent, 05/05
One year ago, Matthew Hedges, a 31-year old Durham University PhD student from Exeter, was wrongfully imprisoned in the UAE. Matthew was in the country for two weeks to research the impact of the Arab spring on the UAE’s foreign policy. On his way home to the UK, he was detained at Dubai airport. He was then subjected to around six months of inhumane treatment and solitary confinement which Matthew described as “psychological torture.” Read more.
Saudi Arabia temporarily frees four women activists
Four more women’s rights activists have been temporarily freed in Saudi Arabia, bringing the total to seven in two months. UK-based Saudi rights organisation ALQST said Hatoon al-Fassi, Amal al-Harbi, Maysaa al-Manea, and Abeer Namankani were all released, with reports a fifth had also been let out. Read more.
Uyghurs in exile: A tree without a forest (German)
Friederike Mayer, Die Tageszeitung, 05/02
The call comes while he is writing his dissertation at Göttingen University’s library. A number from America, it seems strange to him. On the other end, a Washington journalist, an exile like himself, asks what he can say about his father’s arrest. “It was like a slap in the face,” says Tahir Qahiri, 38, a few months later. Read more.
Rival alumni groups in fight over whether jailed Occupy founder Benny Tai should be sacked from post at University of Hong Kong
Alvin Lum, South China Morning Post, 05/01
A row over whether jailed Occupy co-founder Benny Tai Yiu-ting should be immediately dismissed from his teaching job has escalated with rival alumni groups issuing petitions to the University of Hong Kong. Students, meanwhile, spoke highly of Tai’s contribution to democracy and the university’s law school, and also launched their own petition. Read more.
Lawyers should not be the judges of academic responsibility
Stuart Macdonald, Times Higher Education, 04/30
A few years ago, Martin Parker, now professor of organisation studies at the University of Bristol, wrote a critical account of managerialism in a particular UK university that was accepted for publication in a Taylor & Francis journal. But someone objected, the publisher consulted libel lawyers and the paper was spiked. Read more.
United Nations human rights experts ask India to release jailed professor GN Saibaba
United Nations human rights experts on Tuesday called on the Indian government to immediately release Delhi University professor GN Saibaba, who is lodged in a jail in Maharashtra on charges of links with Maoists. Read more.
Brill severs ties with Chinese publisher
Elizabeth Redden, Inside Higher Ed, 04/29
Brill has terminated its relationship with the Beijing-based Higher Education Press to distribute four China-focused journals after scholars reported an entire article was removed from one of the journals by Chinese censors. Read more.
Iran sets stage for more crackdowns on university students’ online activity
Center for Human Rights in Iran, 04/29
University students in Iran could be punished for engaging in online activities deemed by the government as “unethical” following the passage of an amendment to the Islamic Republic’s academic disciplinary regulations. Read more.
Turkey’s Academics for Peace punished for anti-war protest
Burku Karakas, Deutsche Welle, 04/29
“We will not be part of this crime.” That’s the protest call by academics who dared to criticize Turkey’s military offensive against the Kurds. Hundreds of them have lost their jobs — some have been jailed. Read more.
Visas are the newest weapon in the U.S.-China rivalry
Emily Feng, National Public Radio, 04/25
Wang Wen proudly says that he has been to over 20 U.S. states. He flies between the U.S. and China every few months for his job as director of the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, a university think tank in Beijing. At least he did until a few weeks ago, when he received an email from the U.S. Embassy in Beijing. Read more.
Brazil’s new education minister comes with ‘dangerous ideas’
Rachael Pells, Times Higher Education, 04/24
A change in leadership for education in Brazil offers little hope for academic freedom, with fresh scandal surrounding president Jair Bolsonaro’s administration having the potential to impact on the sector, scholars have warned. The right-wing authoritarian leader marked the end of his first trimester in power this month by sacking the former education minister Ricardo Vélez and replacing him with an economist with ties to government. Read more.
Executed Saudi student had a ‘bright future’ ahead of him in Michigan
Ali Harb, Middle East Eye, 04/24
Mutjaba al-Sweikat was only 17 when Saudi Arabian authorities arrested him for participating in an anti-government protest. Instead of attending university in the Midwestern US state of Michigan, he spent his late teens and early 20s in jail before being executed by beheading. Sweikat had been accepted into Western Michigan University (WMU), but Saudi authorities arrested him in 2013 at the airport before he boarded the plane to start his university education to study finance. Read more.
Memo to Zarif: Stop taking dual nationals as hostages
Center for Human Rights in Iran, 04/24
Foreign Minister Javad Zarif’s statement today that he has the “authority” to exchange Iranian-Americans imprisoned in Iran with the US is a glaring admission that these prisoners are being held as political hostages. “If ever there was a question that imprisoned dual nationals in Iran are being used as political pawns, Zarif publicly admitted today that his government has taken these people as hostages,” said Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI). Read more.
Canada playing major role as safe haven for at-risk academics from strife-torn countries
Danielle Edwards, The Globe and Mail, 04/23
In 2014, Abdullah Gharamah’s neighbourhood in Sanaa, Yemen, was being used for weapons storage by armed militants when his home was stormed by some of them, who threatened the lives of his family and largely destroyed his house. That explains why, he says, the warmth and hospitality he’s received at the University of Alberta has been the most meaningful part of his time in Canada since arriving last year. Read more.
Donald Trump, the A.C.L.U., and the ongoing battle over the legitimacy of free speech
Jeannie Suk Gersen, The New Yorker, 04/23
In September, 2017, a month after the deadly Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, student protesters at the College of William and Mary, in Williamsburg, shut down a speaker—Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, the executive director of the A.C.L.U. of Virginia. A student group had invited Gastañaga to campus to give a talk on the importance of free speech, but, because of the students’ persistent disruptions, she could not proceed. Read more.
Attacks against Iranian scholars, students recorded at UN
University World News, 04/20
Attacks against higher education in Iran have been highlighted in a submission filed with the United Nations’ Universal Periodic Review – including wrongful detention and prosecution of academics, restrictions on student expression and discrimination against the Baha’i faith. The 16 April submission to the United Nations in New York was by Scholars at Risk or SAR in cooperation with the Human Rights Law Centre at the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom. Read more.
We must resist attempts to curb academic freedom
Teo You Yenn, University World News, 04/20
In recent years, Singapore’s globally recognised and ‘world-class’ universities have done exceptionally well in science and engineering, and less well in the humanities and social sciences. This is not by accident. In the latter, especially when it comes to research about Singapore society, we have much room for improvement. Read more.
Censorship in a China studies journal
Elizabeth Redden, Inside Higher Ed, 04/19
Yet another account of censorship involving a China studies journal has come to light. And the scholars involved say this case involves an insidious “blurring of boundaries” where they were misled into thinking Western publishing standards would apply when in fact the journal in question was subject to Chinese government censorship. Read more.
12 conservationists detained without counsel in Iran’s Kurdistan Province
Center for Human Rights in Iran, 04/18
Twelve of the 20 environmental conservationists arrested in Iran’s Kurdistan Province in January and February 2019 remain in detention centers run by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and the Ministry of Intelligence in the city of Sanandaj, the provincial capital, without access to legal counsel. Read more.
How US-China political tensions are affecting science
Andrew Silver, Jeff Tollefson, and Elizabeth Gibney, Nature, 04/18
Research is becoming increasingly embroiled in ongoing political tensions between the United States and China. In the latest twist, several US universities are expected this month to announce the actions they have taken against foreign scientists caught breaking rules concerning National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding, according to comments made by agency director Francis Collins to the Senate Appropriations Committee last week. Read more.
Prominent Sudanese geneticist freed from prison as dictator ousted
Declan Butler, Nature, 04/17
Muntaser Ibrahim, a leading geneticist, has been freed from prison in Sudan alongside hundreds of other civilians, including academics, who were detained in recent months for protesting against the regime of now-toppled dictator Omar al-Bashir.Their release was ordered last week by the army, which ousted al-Bashir on 11 April amid a popular revolt sparked by rising bread and fuel prices that has rocked the nation since mid-December. Read more.
Saudi court postpones hearing for women activists
A Saudi court has postponed a fourth hearing in the trial of several women rights activists, a case that has intensified Western criticism of Saudi Arabia. A court official informed some of the women’s relatives that the session would not take place as expected on Wednesday, citing the judge’s “private reasons.” Read more.
Algerian students back on the streets despite police deployment
France 24, 04/16
Thousands of Algerian students chanting “peaceful” rallied Tuesday in the capital as they defiantly faced police officers who barred them from reaching the focal point of weeks of protests. “We will continue to march until a transitional (authority) led by clean politicians is set up,” Mira Laifa, a medical student, said as she took part in the demonstration. Read more.
Sweeping ‘fake news’ bill a risk for academic freedom
Yojana Sharma, University World News, 04/15
Academics from Singapore and around the world have expressed concern over Singapore’s new bill against internet ‘fake news’, which they say could have unintended consequences for academic freedom and research in the country and elsewhere, and could also set an international precedent that might “spur emulation by other countries with weaker institutions.” Read more.
Bhima Koregaon: Telangana police detain academics at meeting to protest arrest of Varvara Rao
The Telangana Police on Saturday detained several academics protesting against the arrest of activist Varavara Rao in Hyderabad. Educationist Haragopal, Telugu poet and journalist N Venugopal, litterateur Katyayani and many others were held in Hyderabad while holding an indoor meeting, the Revolutionary Writers’ Association said in a press release. Rao headed the association. Read more.
U.S. denies entry to leader of movement to boycott Israel
Hannah Allam, National Public Radio, 04/11
The U.S. government has denied entry to Palestinian activist Omar Barghouti, co-founder of the BDS movement, which urges boycott, divestment and sanctions to pressure Israel on security and settlement policies in the West Bank. Barghouti was at Ben Gurion International Airport in Israel on Wednesday when airline staff informed him that he wouldn’t be flying despite holding valid travel documents, according to the Arab American Institute, a Washington-based advocacy group that arranged the trip. He was told that U.S. immigration officials had ordered the U.S. consul in Tel Aviv to deny him permission to enter the United States. Read more.
Academic freedom and institutional autonomy: Commitments must be followed by action
European University Association, 04/10
Modern society thrives on the advancement of knowledge, scientific discoveries and technological development. Research enables such progress: from life-saving medicines to a more profound understanding of human behaviour and interaction, fundamental and applied research shapes and benefits societies around the world. However, research can only contribute to a prosperous and sustainable future if it is conducted according to certain fundamental principles. Read more.
Academics have shaped Sudan’s political history, and may do it again
Willow Berridge, The Conversation, 04/10
Sudanese academics at the University of Khartoum were prominently involved in Sudan’s two most famous uprisings. These were the October Revolution of 1964, which ushered out Sudan’s first military regime, and the April Intifada of 1985, which ousted the second. University lecturers have once again begun to mobilise alongside their fellow professionals against al-Bashir’s regime. Read more.
Czech president blocks professorship of academic critics
David Matthews, Times Higher Education, 04/10
The president of the Czech Republic is attempting to turn the country’s population against intellectuals and polarise society by vetoing professorships for critical academics, according to an art historian who has had his promotion repeatedly blocked. Miloš Zeman, who is known for his opposition to Muslim immigration, closeness to Russia and often described as a populist, has repeatedly used presidential powers to block the professorships of political opponents since he was elected in 2013. Read more.
Syria’s universities: Tragedy and disaster
Emily Seymour, Index on Censorship, 04/10
“We in Syria were living in a big prison, without freedom, without good education, without good quality of life, without any desire of development,” says Dr. Kassem Alsayed Mahmoud, a food science and agricultural engineering researcher. “We have in Syria only five universities while we have more than 200 prisons.” In 2009, Alsayed Mahmoud returned home to Syria after getting his masters and doctorate degree in France. He began working at Al-Furat University, where he quickly encountered the multitude of issues that academics in Syria face. Read more.
‘Out with the system’: Algeria protesters reject interim president
Al Jazeera, 04/09
Police in Algeria’s capital have fired tear gas and water cannon at thousands of students protesting against the appointment of a new interim president who is a part of the ruling order they have been seeking to remove. The demonstration in central Algiers on Tuesday took place as parliament officially confirmed upper house Speaker Abdelkader Bensalah as acting head of state for the next 90 days to replace Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who resigned last week under pressure from the weeks-long, youth-led protests. Read more.
Academic founders of pro-democracy movement convicted
Mimi Leung and Yojana Sharma, University World News, 04/09
Two academics and a reverend who were the co-founders of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement which brought the city to a halt with its largest ever street demonstrations in 2014, have been sentenced for their part in the protests, in what is being seen as a landmark political trial. University of Hong Kong (HKU) law scholar Benny Tai was convicted on two public nuisance-related charges on Tuesday, while sociology professor Chan Kin-man, who stepped down from his post at the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) late last year to concentrate on the trial, was found guilty of two public nuisance charges. Read more.
Chinese universities ordered to spy on staff, students in ideological crackdown
Radio Free Asia, 04/08
Authorities in China are stepping up monitoring of staff and students at the country’s higher education institutions through the use of personal data, surveillance cameras in classrooms, and student informants who are the ruling Chinese Communist Party’s eyes and ears on the ground. Student informants are continually being recruited at China’s universities and typically report back to the authorities around once every two weeks, according to online documents. Read more.
RSF explains why Singapore’s anti-fake news bill is terrible
Reporters Without Borders, 04/08
An anti-fake news bill that the Singaporean government submitted to the city-state’s parliament a week ago would, if adopted in its current form, pose a major obstacle to the freedom to inform in Singapore and beyond, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) explains in the following analysis. The problem of online fake news is a real one, but the Singaporean government’s response, in the form of the Protection From Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Bill that was presented to parliament on 1 April, is completely inappropriate. Read more.
At Columbia, questions over canceled panel
Elizabeth Redden, Inside Higher Ed, 04/04
Columbia University abruptly called off a panel scheduled for this evening on the collapse of the rule in law in Turkey in what several panelists say was likely a result of pressure from the Turkish government. Columbia — which under the leadership of President Lee Bollinger, a First Amendment scholar, has fashioned itself as a bastion for free speech protections and famously defended a speaking invitation in 2007 to the then Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad — denied the decision was a result of outside pressure. Read more.
Fears for academic freedom as Brazil’s political climate deteriorates
Santiago Saez Moreno, Chemistry World, 04/03
Researchers in Brazil say they are facing increasing threats since the election of far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro as the country’s president in October 2018. In an unprecedented development since the country regained democracy in 1985, scientists and academics who work in Brazil feel less safe, and some have even started to leave the country. Female researchers especially appear to be targeted. Read more.
Was British tech used by UAE to spy on Matthew Hedges?
Jan-Peter Westad, Middle East Eye, 04/02
The UK government refused to answer MEE’s questions about whether British surveillance equipment was used to monitor academic. Rights campaigners have accused the UK government of “facilitating abuses” for continuing to license the export of surveillance equipment to the United Arab Emirates after evidence has emerged that the technology may have been used to monitor a British academic. Read more.
Singapore plans law to fight false news, but critics fear repression
Mike Ives and Raymond Zhong, The New York Times, 04/01
Singapore introduced draft legislation on Monday that it said would combat false or misleading information on the internet, but critics said the measure could be used as a cudgel against the government’s critics. The legislation, called the Protection From Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Bill, would require websites to run corrections alongside “online falsehoods” and would “cut off profits” of sites that spread misinformation, among other measures, according to the Ministry of Law. Read more.
Winter settles on Chinese universities
Sarah Biddulph, Donald Clarke, Jerome A. Cohen, Margaret Lewis, Taisu Zhang, Teng Biao, and David Yeliang Xia, Foreign Policy, 04/01
Last week, Xu Zhangrun, a law professor at Beijing’s Tsinghua University who in recent months has written a series of essays critical of policies of the Chinese Communist Party and of its current leader, Xi Jinping, was banned from teaching, relieved of his academic duties, and put under investigation. While Xu has not technically been fired, many fear this week’s actions may be a prelude to more severe moves to silence a witty and prominent political critic and further chill an already wintry environment for scholarship and free expression in China. Read more.
Kyrgyz students vanish into Xinjiang’s maw
Gene A. Bunin, Foreign Policy, 03/31
Turgunaly Tursunaly was a recognizable figure on Bishkek’s Kyrgyz National University campus. Distinguishable by his light skin, big glasses, and friendly, boyish demeanor, the ethnic Kyrgyz from nearby China’s Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region had already enjoyed a certain degree of fame even before coming to Kyrgyzstan to study. Read more.
Leaked reports reveal severe abuse of Saudi political prisoners
Nick Hopkins, Stephanie Kirchgaessner, and Kareem Shaheen, The Guardian, 03/31
Political prisoners in Saudi Arabia are said to be suffering from malnutrition, cuts, bruises and burns, according to leaked medical reports that are understood to have been prepared for the country’s ruler, King Salman. The reports seem to provide the first documented evidence from within the heart of the royal court that political prisoners are facing severe physical abuse, despite the government’s denials that men and women in custody are being tortured. Read more.
The Middle East’s authoritarians have come for conservationists
Peter Schwartzstein, The Atlantic, 03/30
Environmental activists pushing for clean water, restrictions on poaching, and action on climate change have faced prison—or worse. Amirhossein Khaleghi thought he knew danger. For much of the past 12 years, he had tracked Persian leopards and Asiatic cheetahs across the rugged splendor of Iran’s national parks. Read more.
Saudi Arabia: Two women human rights defenders temporarily freed, while others remain in prison
The Gulf Centre for Human Rights, 03/29
The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) welcomes the news that two women’s rights defenders have been freed after over 10 months in detention in Saudi Arabia, but reiterates that they should never have been arrested. According to various reports, more women’s rights defenders arrested last year will be released on 31 March. There are currently at least 13 other women’s rights defenders (women and men) who were arrested as part of a crackdown on women’s rights activists that began in May 2018. Read more.
The European far right has its eye on education
Andrea Mammone and Anja Guidici, Al Jazeera, 03/29
Today, the Thirteenth World Congress of Families will kick off in Verona, under the patronage of the Italian regions of Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia. Marco Bussetti, the Italian education minister, will be among a number of high-level officials to speak at the event. That Bussetti will be rubbing shoulders with ultra-conservative activists and politicians from Italy, Hungary, Moldova, Russia, Uganda and Malawi at an event that purports to “the natural family as a fundamental unit of society” should not come as a surprise. Read more.
HRK President appalled at repression of Turkish researchers
The German Rectors’ Conference, 03/28
Around three years after the petition “We Will Not Be a Party to this Crime!” was published, the repression of researchers by the Turkish authorities has taken on a new dimension. The President of the German Rectors’ Conference (HRK), Professor Dr Peter-André Alt, stated his views on this today in Berlin. Read more.
Chinese officials pressured Concordia University to cancel event with Uighur activist
Levon Sevunts, CBC, 03/27
Chinese officials pressured a Montreal-based human rights research institute affiliated with Concordia University to cancel a conference featuring a prominent exiled Uighur leader, says one of the organizers of the event. Kyle Matthews, executive director of the Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies (MIGS) at Concordia University, said he received an email from the Chinese consul general in Montreal on Monday, asking him for an urgent meeting to discuss a planned conference on the Uighur minority in China. Read more.
Harvard activist detained in South Sudan charged with ‘insurgency, sabotage’ despite UN calls for his immediate release
Chantal Da Silva, Newsweek, 03/27
Peter Biar Ajak, a Harvard graduate and prominent political activist who has been detained by South Sudanese officials for nearly eight months, was charged with insurgency and sabotage, according to his lawyer. In a statement sent to Newsweek, international human rights lawyer Jared Genser said Ajak, a father of two young boys who has been detained in South Sudan since July 28, had been handed “unequivocally false” charges from South Sudanese officials on Monday. Read more.
A Chinese law professor criticized Xi. Now he’s been suspended
Chris Buckley, The New York Times, 03/26
One of China’s most prestigious universities has suspended a law professor and placed him under investigation after he published a series of essays that warned of deepening repression under President Xi Jinping, he said on Tuesday. Professor Xu Zhangrun, of Tsinghua University in Beijing, shot to prominence last year when he published a passionate essay in July that was a rare rebuke of Mr. Xi’s rule. Read more.
Indonesian university censors lesbian love story
Elaine Pearson, Human Rights Watch, 03/26
A student news website in Indonesia that published a story about a woman expressing her love for another young woman was ordered by university officials to shut down its entire news operation after the story went viral. North Sumatra University (USU), a public university in Medan, North Sumatra province, gave the 18 students who write for and publish Suara USU (USU News) just 48 hours to shut down and vacate the newsroom. Read more.
Kerala academic quits after HRD says researchers to pursue PhD only on topics of “national interest”
A Kerala academic, who stepped down to protest a central government order asking PhD students to focus on topics of national interest, has said people should think about education when they vote in the upcoming elections. In an interview with News18 published on Sunday, Meena T Pillai called such orders suicidal and feudal. Read more.
China: Government threats to academic freedom abroad
Human Rights Watch, 03/21
Institutions of higher learning around the world should resist the Chinese government’s efforts to undermine academic freedom abroad, Human Rights Watch said today. On March 21, 2019, Human Rights Watch published a 12-point Code of Conduct for colleges and universities to adopt to respond to Chinese government threats to the academic freedom of students, scholars, and educational institutions. Read more.
Pro-Palestine students ‘banned’ from UK campus during Queen’s visit
Middle East Monitor, 03/21
Kicking off Israeli Apartheid Week, pro-Palestine students at one of the most prestigious universities in London claim they were barred from campus during the Queen’s visit. At least ten King’s College London students came forward saying they were blocked from attending classes, exams and work on 19 March due to their political activity. Read more.
Student kills professor on campus over alleged blasphemy
Ameen Amjad Khan, University World News, 03/21
A student at a college in Pakistan’s Punjab province killed his professor by stabbing him with knife over alleged blasphemy on 20 March. The student, Khateeb Hussain, has been arrested by the police and has confessed to killing Professor Khalid Hameed, alleging that he spoke against Islam. Read more.
Trump’s free-speech order could have been harsher. But higher-ed leaders still don’t approve
Beth McMurtrie, The Chronicle of Higher Education, 03/21
The executive order that President Trump signed on Thursday, designed to protect free speech on college campuses, was less harsh than many critics had feared. Still, controversy clung to the measure, with constitutional-law scholars and higher-education leaders calling it unnecessary and potentially dangerous. Read more.
2 academics sentenced to 15 months, 1 academic to 2.5 years in prison
Tansu Piskin, Bianet, 03/20
While Tuna Kuyucu and İlker Birbil have been given deferred prison sentences of 15 months by the 27th Heavy Penal Court, Taylan Tarhan has been sentenced to 18 months and Nevin Zeynep Yelçe has been sentenced to 2 years, 6 months by the same court. Trial of academics, who have been charged with “propagandizing for a terrorist organization” for having signed the declaration entitled “We will not be a party to this crime” prepared by the Academics for Peace, continued in İstanbul Çağlayan Courthouse today (March 20). Read more.
German deal could allow CEU to stay in Hungary
Anna McKie, Times Higher Education, 03/17
Threatened university says it needs ‘definitive legal certainty’ over its future. The leader of the conservative group in the European Parliament is attempting to broker a deal that could allow the Central European University to stay in Budapest. Read more.
Saudi Arabia: Women human rights defenders taken to court on charges which violate their right to freedom of expression
The Gulf Centre for Human Rights, 03/17
On 13 March 2019, nine women human rights defenders were brought for the first hearing of their trial in Riyadh. They were among 11 women defendants. The court was changed at the last minute to the Criminal Court from the Specialised Criminal Court (SCC), which was set up in 2008 to deal with cases related to terrorism. Read more.
Students protest after National Law University suspends 6 students
Bharat Khanna, The Times of India, 03/16
Students of Rajiv Gandhi National Law University in Patiala staged a protest against the administration of the university following the suspension of six students who had raised their voice against the poor food being supplied in the university mess. The protesting students had to spend whole Friday night outside the university on main road after they were thrown out for protesting against the university authorities. Read more.
Academic freedoms: why do protections not apply to university leaders?
Ellie Bothwell, Times Higher Education, 03/14
As universities become ever more wary of negative publicity, leaders who speak out on contentious issues are increasingly finding themselves in hot water. When the chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse invited porn star-turned-sex educator Nina Hartley to speak on campus last year, he expected that there would be “some controversy.” Read more.
Academics hail court rulings on deported lecturers
Tunde Fatunde, University World News, 03/13
Nigerian academics have welcomed a ruling by the Federal High Court in Abuja ordering the repatriation of six academics – five Cameroonian and one Nigerian – who were arrested and deported from Nigeria in January last year on allegations of plotting to overthrow the government of Cameroonian President Paul Biya. Two separate judgments were handed down by presiding judge, Justice Anwuli Chikere, on 1 March in connection with the matter. Read more.
Saudi women’s rights activists stand trial in criminal court
Middle East Eye, 03/13
Several Saudi Arabian women rights activists stood trial on Wednesday for the first time since a group of them were detained last year in a case that has intensified scrutiny of Riyadh’s human rights record. Loujain al-Hathloul, Aziza al-Yousef, Eman al-Nafjan and Hatoon al-Fassi are among around 10 women appearing before the criminal court in Riyadh, the capital, where charges will be presented against them, court president Ibrahim al-Sayari said. Read more.
University collaborations at risk after death sentence
Wagdy Sawahel and Yojana Sharma, University World News, 03/13
Universities have warned that cooperation agreements with Iranian universities could be put at risk by the conviction and death sentence in Iran of Iranian-Swedish academic Ahmadreza Djalali, in a significant stepping up of pressure on Iranian authorities by universities in Europe and elsewhere. The German Rectors’ Conference (HRK), the umbrella organisation for some 268 universities in the country, said in a statement on March 5: “We want to make it clear that we will continue to fight for the freedom of Dr Djalali alongside a number of international partners. Respecting human rights and academic freedom is an indispensable prerequisite for cooperation with Iranian universities.” Read more.
Venezuela research output plummets as political crisis grips state
Simon Baker, Times Higher Education, 03/12
Data on research output in South America paints a stark picture for the troubled nation. The political and economic crisis that has been engulfing Venezuela has been accompanied by a huge drop in the amount of research being produced by academics from the country, data show. Read more.
ECHR: Cancellation of passports of Turkish academics threaten academic freedoms
Amnesty International, 03/11
On 5 March 2019, the Turkey Litigation Support Project, Amnesty International, ARTICLE 19 and PEN International submitted a third party intervention before the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) on the key case concerning the cancellation of passports of three academics from Turkey – Alphan Telek, Edgar Şar and Zeynep Kıvılcım. In retaliation for signing a petition calling for peace in Southeast Turkey known as the “Academics for Peace” petition, the three scholars were dismissed from their jobs, had their passports cancelled and banned from public service under Turkey’s state of emergency legislation. Read more.
Renowned Sudanese geneticist behind bars for opposing regime
Linda Nordling, Science Magazine, 03/11
A leading Sudanese geneticist has been imprisoned for speaking out against the country’s repressive regime. Muntaser Ibrahim, who heads the University of Khartoum’s Institute of Endemic Diseases, was arrested on 21 February in Khartoum and has been detained ever since. His friends and family do not know his location. They say Ibrahim suffers from a heart condition that requires specialist care. Read more.
Hungarian scientists fear for academic freedom with new government interference
Staff members of the historic Hungarian Academy of Sciences said their academic freedom has been threatened by a new deal giving the nationalist government influence over its research institutions. Prime Minister Viktor Orban, a conservative leader who came to power in 2010, has tightened control over Hungarian public life, including the courts, the media, the economy, as well as education and now scientific research. Read more.
Crisis threatens scientific progress
Jorge A. Huete-Pérez, Gioconda Cunto de San Blas, and Jeremy N. McNeil, Science Magazine, 03/08
Science Magazine, 03/08
Years of sociopolitical unrest in Nicaragua and Venezuela have given rise to a human rights and humanitarian crisis in Latin America. Last week, the situation in both countries took a serious turn. It is also important to point out the grave, long-term impact that these crises have on science and education in these countries. Read more.
Silencing women’s voices in Saudi Arabia
Elaine Pearson, Human Rights Watch, 03/07
Nassima ran as a candidate in local elections in 2015 before authorities removed her name from the ballot. Hatoon is a professor of women’s history and among the first women to acquire a driver’s license in Saudi Arabia. Read more.
Why banning controversial voices is bad practice
Nuraan Davids and Yusef Waghid, University World News, 03/06
Two years ago the University of Cape Town (UCT) in South Africa ‘disinvited’ Flemming Rose from giving its annual TB Davie Academic Freedom Lecture. Rose is the cultural editor of the Danish publication Jyllands-Posten that depicted the Prophet Muhammad in cartoons. Read more.
Iranian Belgian academic arrested in Iran on unspecified “security charges”
Center for Human Rights in Iran, 03/06
A dual national academic who has taught at the University of Tehran and the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium was arrested on “security charges,” a senior Iranian official revealed on March 4, 2019. In speaking about the case, Deputy Science Minister Salar Amoli omitted details about the detainees’ identity, including his name and date of arrest. Read more.
Armed with memes, Algerian protestors join anti-Bouteflika protests
Hamdi Baala, Al Jazeera, 03/05
Thousands of university students have marched in Algeria’s capital, as peaceful rallies against President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s bid to seek a fifth term continued for a second week. Thousands of young Algerians demonstrate in the capital, Algiers, over ailing president’s bid to seek a fifth term. Read more.
Court of appeal upholds first prison sentence of an Academic for Peace
Tansu Piskin, Bianet, 03/04
The 3rd Panel Chamber of the İstanbul Regional Court of Justice has upheld the prison sentence of 1 year and 3 months previously given to Prof. Dr. Zübeyde Füsun Üstel for having signed the declaration “we will not be party to this crime” declared by Academics for Peace. Being upheld by the court of appeal by majority of votes, the prison sentence given to Üstel on April 4, 2018 has become definite. Read more.
Anger at punishment for students’ pro-independence posts
Mimi Leung, University World News, 03/04
The expulsion of a student and punishments meted out to three others over pro-independence postings on a university noticeboard dubbed ‘democracy wall’ has led to a renewed outcry over free speech on Hong Kong’s campuses. More than a dozen pro-democracy lawmakers in Hong Kong called for the punishments to be reversed after Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) on 1 March expelled master’s degree student Gerald Ho. Read more.
Cambridge protest for South Sudan student facing death penalty
Campaigners calling for a Cambridge University student facing the death penalty in South Sudan to be released are staging a 48-hour “cage campaign”. PhD student Peter Biar Ajak, 35, a critic of his country’s regime, has been detained without charge since his arrest at Juba Airport in July. Read more.
2 Academics Sentenced to 15 Months in Prison
Tansu Pişkin, Bianet, 02/28
Having their hearings at the 37th İstanbul Heavy Penal Court, two academics have been sentenced to 15 months in prison on charge of “propagandizing for a terrorist organization.” The pronouncement of their verdicts have been suspended. Read more.
Hungarian government withholds funding from Academy of Sciences prompting protests
Santiago Sáez, Moreno, Chemistry World, 02/27
The Hungarian government is withholding HUF17 billion (£46.5 million) of funding earmarked for the everyday running of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. The academy is the country’s main research institution, comprising over 40 research centres, and the science ministry has said it will not release the money for at least three months. The move has sparked protests from researchers both in Hungary and abroad who claim that the government is undermining researchers’ independence. Read more.
Families denied access to secretive trial of Iran’s detained conservationists
Center for Human Rights in Iran, 02/27
Detained conservationist Morad Tahbaz was summoned to two closed-door sessions February 24-25, 2019, in Tehran’s Revolutionary Court system, the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) has learned. A knowledgeable source told CHRI that the families are unlawfully being denied access to the trial: “The families are not even being let inside the courtroom. The only thing the lawyers are telling the families is that everything will turn out okay. The families and the defendants cannot speak freely because an [security] agent is always present during their meetings inside prison.” Read more.
First dissenting opinion of acquittal against a verdict of conviction
Tansu Pişkin, Bianet, 02/27
While 4 academics have been sentenced to 15 months in prison, one academic has been given a prison sentence of 1 year, 10 months, for whom a judge member to the court board has expressed a dissenting opinion, stating “He should have been acquitted.” Read more.
Tens of thousands of Algerian students join growing anti-Bouteflika protests
Middle East Eye, 02/26
Tens of thousands of students joined a growing protest movement across Algeria after ailing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika announced plans to run for a fifth term earlier this month, Reuters news agency reported, citing witnesses. Rallies in and around the capital and other cities have been ongoing for the past five days, with Tuesday’s protests led by university students. Read more.
Add wildlife conservation to the list of capital offenses in Iran
Jason Rezaian, The Washington Post, 02/26
International pressure to end the imprisonment of eight environmentalists in Iran is mounting as the farcical trial against them lumbers on. Prosecutors claim that the group spied on some of Iran’s most sensitive military installations at the behest of the CIA and Mossad. The reality is far more mundane (and heroic): The accused are conservationists who were tracking the movements of an endangered species of cheetah. Read more.
From Badawi to Khashoggi: Freedom of speech in Saudi Arabia
Deutsche Welle, 02/26
It has been almost seven years since blogger Raif Badawi, the first recipient of DW’s Freedom of Speech Award, was imprisoned in Saudi Arabia. Freedom of expression was — and still is — a criminal offense there. Read more.
Is academic freedom threatened? (Spanish)
Camilo Peña Castañeda, El Tiempo, 02/25
In Congress, a controversial bill was filed this week that seeks to penalize teachers who promote political ideologies in class. A position that, according to experts in education, violates the freedom of teaching enshrined in Article 67 of the 1991 Constitution. Read more.
Kashmiri students face backlash after major terror attack
Shuriah Niazi, University World News, 02/21
The political tensions over a 14 February suicide bombing that killed more than 40 paramilitary officers in Pulwama in Indian-administered Kashmir have spilled over onto university campuses in India with Kashmiri students bearing the brunt of people’s anger. Many were forced to lock themselves in their campus rooms for days, others attempted to flee home to Kashmir, and hundreds were evacuated from university campuses by Kashmiri student organisations which provided them with temporary shelter. Read more.
School’s out forever
Rosa Schwartzburg, Slate, 02/20
My university’s new campus is currently being set up in an old state hospital on the outskirts of Vienna. Budapest-based Central European University bought the old building a few months ago as a fail-safe in case the Hungarian government succeeded in driving us out of the country. Read more.
Scholars at Risk: Zelalem Kibret forced to choose between silence and speaking his mind
Lauren Savage, Index on Censorship, 2/20
Ethiopian blogger and academic, Zelalem Kibret, was raised in a country where living in silence or speaking your mind was often a choice between life and death. “Political prisoners have been released but the academic conditions are getting worse and universities are shutting down” says Zelalem, a Scholar-in-Residence at the Centre of Human Rights and Legal Pluralism at Canada’s McGill University. “Students are being killed.” Read more.
Indian professor who compared Modi to Hitler is waiting to be jailed
Kai Schultz, Jeffrey Gettleman, and Hari Kumar, The New York Times, 02/20
Returning from a lecture in southern India a few weeks ago, Prof. Anand Teltumbde was booking a cab outside Mumbai’s airport after midnight when security officers approached him in the dark and took him away. Mr. Teltumbde, a prominent scholar and writer on Indian social issues, was locked in an iron-grilled cell in the nearby city of Pune. For eight hours, he sat behind bars on a dirty mat until a court intervened, ruling that the arrest was illegal. Read more.
Sudan shutters all its universities
Tarek Abd El-Galil, Al-Fanar Media, 02/19
Mounting protests against President Omar al-Bashir’s government in Sudan have resulted in the government closing all of the country’s universities. Al-Sadiq al-Mahdi, Sudan’s Minister of Higher Education, announced the suspension of study at 38 public universities and about 100 private higher education institutions after the outbreak of popular demonstrations against the country’s punishing economic conditions and the increased cost of living. Read more.
International call to end ‘unfounded interventions’ at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences
Florin Zubașcu, Science|Business, 02/19
European academies are calling on the Hungarian government to stop “recurring and unfounded interventions” in the structure and funding of the research institutes of Hungary’s academy of sciences. The European Federation of Academies of Sciences and Humanities (ALLEA) says the proposed reorganisation of the structure and funding of academy’s research institutes harm academic freedom, scientific excellence and the self-governance of scientific institutions. By withholding funding for basic maintenance costs and salaries, the government “politicises scientific research and jeopardises Hungary’s strong European and international partnerships in science,” the federation said. Read more.
Academics condemn Israeli arrests of Palestinian students
Edward Fox, Al-Fanar Media, 02/19
The detention by Israeli authorities of Yehya Rabie, the pro-Hamas president of the Student Council at Birzeit University, represents a continuing policy of aggressively stifling students and professors who support the Islamist group at Palestinian universities, academic and human-rights organizations say. In the words of Carmen Keshek, a spokeswoman for Birzeit, “the Israelis consider anyone aligned with Hamas to be terrorists.” Read more.
For the first time in history, CIDH recognized abuses of university autonomy (Spanish)
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights recognized for the first time the violations of academic freedom in the Americas, mainly in Venezuela and Nicaragua, at the 171st Period of Sessions that began on February 7, 2019 and ended on the 16th, in the city of Sucre, Bolivia. Read more.
Threatened scholars: online harassment risks academic freedom
David Matthews, Times Higher Education, 02/14
Two academics who were bombarded with death and rape threats after they were selected by Twitter to research communication on the platform have warned that such incidents will make scholars afraid to speak to the public. Rebekah Tromble, assistant professor of political communication at Leiden University, and Patricia Rossini, a postdoctoral researcher at Syracuse University in New York state, said that they had feared for their safety during an onslaught of tens of thousands of hostile tweets, comments and emails last July. Read more.
Uighur academics targeted by Chinese ‘cultural cleansing’
Ellie Bothwell, Times Higher Education, 02/12
Academics have been urged to protest against China’s mass internment of the Uighur community and to reconsider their interactions with state-controlled educational programmes as the country’s persecution of Muslim minorities continues. A report from the Uyghur Human Rights Project states that at least 338 Uighur intellectuals have been “interned, imprisoned or forcibly disappeared” since April 2017, in what it describes as the “Chinese state’s ‘cultural cleansing’ campaign”. Read more.
Turkey’s mass trials deepen wounds left by attempted coup
Carlotta Gall, The New York Times, 02/12
Turkish courts are just weeks from concluding some 300 mass trials intended to draw a line under the most traumatic event of Turkey’s recent history: the failed 2016 coup that killed 251 people, mostly civilians, and wounded more than 2,000. Read more.
Sudan security arrests professors as protests rage on: witnesses
Khalid Abdelaziz, Yousef Saba, Andrew Heavens, Reuters, 02/12
Security forces arrested 14 professors who were gathering to protest outside Khartoum University on Tuesday, witnesses said, as anti-government demonstrations neared the end of their eighth week. Doctors also rallied outside state and private hospitals in Sudan’s capital and other cities against the rule of President Omar al-Bashir, witnesses added. Read more.
Scientists in Hungary protest govt takeover of research
Pablo Gorondi, The Associated Press, 02/12
Scientists in Hungary on Tuesday protested government efforts to take control of their research funding, a move they say endangers academic freedom. Several thousand people formed a human chain around the headquarters of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, urging the academy’s leaders to fight the government plan and hold onto their independence. Read more.
Two kinds of academic freedom? Lessons from a scholar who fled Turkey
Shannon Dea, University Affairs, 02/11
Should there be a separate conception of academic freedom for precarious and independent scholars? After last month’s Dispatch was published, I shared it on Facebook. In the comment thread below the post, University of Guelph visiting assistant professor Evren Altinkas provocatively asked “Is it ‘academic freedom’ or ‘freedom of [the] academician?” Intrigued, I asked him to explain the distinction he had in mind. Read more.
Iranian agents tried to frame detained conservationists by staging scenes to falsely implicate them
Center for Human Rights in Iran, 02/11
Amid eight conservationists’ closed-door trial in Iran’s revolutionary court system, the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) has been informed that agents staged scenes around at least two of the detainees with the intent of implicating them in a false narrative. Read more.
Cambridge University student Peter Biar Ajak ‘detained in hellhole’
A Cambridge University student facing the death penalty in South Sudan is being “arbitrarily detained in a modern-day hellhole”, his lawyer says. PhD student Peter Biar Ajak, 35, a critic of his country’s regime, has been detained without charge since his arrest at Juba Airport in July. His lawyer Jared Genser said this was “in clear violation of his rights under international law”. Read more.
Academic freedom and the Inter-American Human Rights System (Spanish)
Salvador Herencia Carrasco, Catalina Aragón Patiño, Los Tiempos, 02/08
Between February 7 and 16, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) will hold its 171st session in Sucre, Bolivia. The public hearings will be from February 13 to 15, which represents an opportunity for the legal community, the media and the public to know how the Inter-American System works (IAHRS), as well as the human rights challenges in the region. Read more.
Universities in battle to build trust in a hostile world
Mary Beth Marklein, University World News, 02/08
Central European University (CEU), the bastion of academic freedom being forced out of Budapest, Hungary, received a shot in the arm last month when a team of United States academics recommended it be re-accredited for another five years. “A remarkable institution,” Johns Hopkins University President Ron Daniels, the team leader, wrote in the Washington Post. Read more.
Parliament to summon security companies over student protests
Tamar Khan, Business Day, 02/06
Parliament will summon private security companies to explain their actions in quelling student protests, following the death of a student at the Durban University of Technology (DUT) on Tuesday. Read more.
15-Month Deferred Prison Sentence for 3 Academics
Tansu Pişkin, Bianet, 02/06
Academics İnci Özkan Kerestecioğlu, Biriz Berksoy and Canay Şahin have been sentenced to 1 year and 3 months in prison. The court board of the İstanbul 36th Heavy Penal Court has ruled that the announcement of all three verdicts shall be deferred. Read more.
Foreign academics ‘less likely’ to speak up for academic freedom
Ellie Bothwell, Times Higher Education, 02/06
The hiring of international academics at universities in Singapore could reinforce the country’s lack of academic freedom and “make the academy more conservative”, a scholar has claimed. Read more.
Iran Detains Conservationist as 8 Others Tried in Court
Michael Lipin, VOA, 02/04
Iran has detained another environmentalist who worked for the same Iranian conservation organization as eight activists who went on trial in Tehran last week after spending a year in detention. A reliable source in Iran told VOA Persian that Iranian authorities detained Pouria Sepahvand of the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation on Saturday. Read more.
Treatment of Saudi women activists could be torture, UK panel finds
Middle East Eye, 02/04
A panel of British MPs and lawyers investigating the detention of women’s rights activists in Saudi Arabia has concluded that their treatment could constitute torture under Saudi and international law. Read more.
Venezuelan universities ‘approaching point of no return’
Rachael Pells, Times Higher Education, 02/03
University leaders in Venezuela have called on the United Nations to intervene in the country’s political crisis amid warnings that the deterioration of the higher education system is approaching the point of no return. Read more.
Unrest grows as Sudanese professors boycott al-Bashir
Mail & Guardian, 02/01
About 300 Sudanese professors and lecturers from the University of Khartoum held a sit-in protest on campus on Wednesday against President Omar al-Bashir’s government, a spokesperson for the group said. Deadly protests have rocked the East African country since December 19, after a government decision to triple the price of bread. Read more.
Disappearing textbook highlights debate in China over academic freedom
Christian Shepherd, Reuters, 02/01
A constitutional law textbook written by one China’s best-known reform-minded legal scholars has been pulled from book shops, apparently the latest text to run afoul of a government campaign against “Western influence”. The author, Zhang Qianfan, a professor at Peking University known for his advocacy of constitutionalism and judicial reform, dismissed any suggestion his writing excessively promoted Western ideas as “utter nonsense”, and said the academic world should not be politicized. Read more.
A man who spoke for peace must not be met with silence
Lisa Klaassen, Varsity, 01/31
When striving for peace is punished, courage must prevail. Peter Biar Ajak, a peace activist and PhD student at the University of Cambridge, was contending for peace and youth leadership in his native South Sudan when he was arrested at Juba Airport on July 28th, 2018. Since being taken into custody at the notorious South Sudanese prison known as the Blue House, Peter has been held without receiving formal charges, delaying his right to legal representation and any attempts at release. Read more.
Uganda’s Makerere University at center of row over academic freedom
Wambi Michael, Deutsche Welle, 01/31
The row began shortly before Christmas when Makerere University dismissed 45 members of its academic staff. The purpose of this was said to be to stamp out indiscipline. Vice Chancellor Barnabas Nawangwe also suspended the chairperson of the Makerere University Academic Staff Association (MUASA), Dr. Deus Kamunyu, as well as Barnett Magara, chair of the Makerere University Administrative Association (MASA) and Joseph Kalema, secretary-general of the Administrative Staff Association. Read more.
Call for sector guidelines on academic freedom on social media
Ellie Bothwell, Times Higher Education, 01/31
Universities and academics must urgently establish what constitutes acceptable speech by scholars online, experts have claimed, as several staff at institutions across the UK reveal that they have been contacted or disciplined by managers over their use of social media. One senior member of staff at a UK university told Times Higher Education that his institution recently considered asking him to resign from his administrative duties after he published a negative tweet about UK government policies. Read more.
Do Australia, New Zealand academics fear travelling to China after Yang Hengjun’s arrest?
John Power, South China Morning Post, 01/30
China’s detention of Chinese-Australian writer Yang Hengjun earlier this month is fuelling fears among some sinologists in Australia and New Zealand that it is not safe to travel to the mainland for work. Yang, an Australian citizen and former Chinese diplomat who has criticised Beijing for censorship and overseas interference, has been held on the mainland under “residential surveillance” on suspicion of espionage since January 19. He was on a family trip when he was taken at Guangzhou airport. Read more.
Uyghur scholars and students interned or disappeared
Yojana Sharma, University World News, 01/30
Specific details are emerging about an alarming number of university teachers of China’s Uyghur Muslim minority identified as interned, imprisoned or forcibly disappeared in China – part of a major government crackdown on Uyghurs that has seen around 1 million detained in camps in Xinjiang province since 2017. A new report released this week by the United States-based Uyghur Human Rights Project (URHP) notes that some 242 scholars, artists and journalists have been identified, among them “an alarming 61 university professors” and some 96 students. Read more.
Historians call for release of Nicaraguan professor
Elizabeth Redden, Inside Higher Ed, 01/30
The leadership of the American Historical Association wrote last week to Nicaraguan authorities urging them to release Ricardo Baltodano Marcenaro, a professor at the Universidad Politécnica de Nicaragua. The monitoring group Scholars at Risk has reported that Baltodano was detained in September “in apparent retaliation” for his participation in nationwide protests against the government of President Daniel Ortega that started last April. On Sept. 18 Baltodano was accused by the National Police of Nicaragua of terrorism, murder and other crimes. Read more.
EU team visits China’s Xinjiang region to gather evidence on re-education camps
South China Morning Post, 01/29
A European Union delegation has visited China’s far western region of Xinjiang, a rare chance to gather evidence on the re-education camps that have drawn harsh criticism from human rights groups and Western powers, officials said on Monday. The team was supervised by Chinese officials during on the three-day trip this month, but managed to gather information the EU said built on “forcing and mutually consistent” reports of rights abuses in the region. Read more.
Professor Says U Didn’t Like Her MLK Day Comments
Colleen Flaherty, Inside Higher Ed, 01/28
Melissa Harris-Perry, journalist and professor of political science and director of the Anna Julia Cooper Center at Wake Forest University, said on Twitter that the institution invited her to leave after she criticized it during a speech honoring Martin Luther King Jr. last week. Read more.
Violence against African students undermines HE plans
Wagdy Sawahel, University World News, 01/25
Tunisia continues to witness incidents of criminally or racially motivated violent attacks on Sub-Saharan African students, which threaten the safety of the foreign academic community and undermine Tunisia’s plan for becoming an attractive African hub for education and training. Among the incidents making the news more recently was that involving Falikou Coulibaly, the president of the Association of Ivorian students in Tunisia, who was stabbed to death in the capital Tunis, on 23 December last year. Read more.
Iran is using false “confessions” to manufacture cases against detained conservationists
Center for Human Rights in Iran, 01/24
Some of the conservationists who have been imprisoned incommunicado in Iran for the past year have been forced to confess under the threat of death, the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) has learned. New details about the prolonged detentions of Houman Jowkar, Taher Ghadirian, Morad Tahbaz, Sepideh Kashani, Niloufar Bayani, Amir Hossein Khaleghi, Sam Rajabi and Abdolreza Kouhpayeh strongly indicate that Iran’s judicial officials have been working closely with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC’s) Intelligence Organization to build cases against them based on false confessions obtained under extreme duress. Read more.
Four Sudanese killed as dozens of cities hold protests against president
Mohammed Amin, Middle East Eye, 01/24
Four Sudanese men have been killed as the country saw its most widespread protests on Thursday during more than a month of continued unrest. The Sudanese Doctors’ Committee said medical student Mahjoub al-Taj Majhoub died “after being subjected to beating and torture” while in police custody. University student Abd al-Azeem Babikir, 22, was killed “after a bullet hit him directly in the chest”, the committee said in a statement. Read more.
3-year prison sentence not deferred: ‘We gave a 2-year sentence, then increased it to 3 years’
Tansu Pişkin, Bianet, 01/24
Dr. Lecturer Yonca Demir from Bilgi University has been sentenced to 3 years in prison. The presiding judge announced the verdict saying, “We gave a two-year sentence. Then we increased it to three years. And we did not reverse the verdict.” Read more.
Campus protests spread as junta lifts ban for election
Suluck Lamubol, University World News, 01/24
Peaceful protests led by student activist groups have sprung up on university campuses across Thailand in recent weeks after the country’s military government lifted the ban on political gatherings in preparation for national elections – the first since the junta came to power in 2014 – now scheduled for 24 March. Read more.
Singapore legal challenge ‘will chill academic freedom’
Ellie Bothwell, Times Higher Education, 01/23
Academics fear that the removal of an online article that included critical comments about the country’s two leading universities following a legal challenge will have a chilling effect on freedom of expression. The story, “Opaque policies, fixation with KPIs, rankings: why arts and humanities academics quit NUS, NTU”, which was published by the online newspaper Today, included interviews with several academics who had left or were planning to leave the National University of Singapore and Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. Read more.
Government continues crackdown on academic freedom in Hungary
Florin Zubașcu, Science|Business, 01/22
The Hungarian government is continuing its crackdown on academic freedom and has intensified attempts to put the research institutes of the Academy of Sciences under direct political control, after previously forcing the Central European University to move most of its courses from Budapest to Vienna and banning institutions in the country from offering gender studies degrees. Researchers at the academy are worried about their future, as the government is seeking more control over the research budget and is claiming the academy’s network of research institutes needs to be restructured to boost excellence in research and innovation. Read more.
Chinese Marxist students appear in ‘confession’ video as crackdown continues
James Griffiths, CNN, 01/22
China’s universities have always been a breeding ground for political activism, from the May Fourth Movement which helped lead to the Communist revolution, to the 1989 pro-democracy protests which sought to reform it. Today, however, China’s leaders have no intention of allowing students to challenge them, as a months-long crackdown against a Marxist university group demonstrates. Read more.
Prominent Saudi scholar Ahmed al-Amari dies in prison: Activists
Al Jazeera, 01/21
A prominent Saudi Imam and preacher at the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina has died in prison, reportedly as a result of being held in poor conditions, activists have said. Sheikh Ahmed al-Amari, former dean of the Quran College in the Islamic University of Madinah, died on Sunday, more than five months after he was arrested, said the social media advocacy group, Prisoners of Conscience, which monitors and documents arrests of Saudi preachers and religious scholars. Read more.
New students’ platform in front line against Bashir
Wagdy Sawahel, University World News, 01/16
Sudanese university students have joined forces to form a new students’ association of unions and groups and have called for the immediate release of all detainees and the resignation of long-standing Sudanese autocrat president Omar al-Bashir. Launched on Monday, 14 January, the Sudanese Students Association (SSA) will act as a collective platform for Sudanese students to unite their efforts in the battle to topple the regime and restore rights. Read more.
Universities to ramp up security on campuses, education board says after lecturer murder
Hürriyet Daily News, 01/16
New security measures are underway for university campuses, Turkey’s Higher Education Board (YÖK) said on Jan. 15 following the murder of a lecturer on the campus of an Ankara university earlier this month.A study to ensure the peace and security of academics was initiated and several decisions have been made,” said a statement released after a meeting on Jan. 15 of a joint commission between YÖK and the Interior Ministry. Read more.
Morocco’s crackdown won’t silence dissent
Ilhem Rachidi, Foreign Policy, 01/16
When she joined the National Union of Moroccan Students in 1978, Khadija Ryadi knew she’d face hardship. “At that time,” she recalled, “we were constantly followed by the police.” But today, she told me, life may be even harder. “Now not only are we followed but we are also listened to and photographed, and everywhere. The repression has remained, but the instruments have changed. I never feel at ease.” Read more.
Academic sentenced to 2 years, 1 month in prison; sentence not deferred
Tansu Pişkin, Bianet, 01/16
Academic M.A. has been sentenced to 2 years, 1 month in prison for “knowingly and willingly aiding a terrorist organization as a non-member.” Neither the announcement of the verdict nor the sentence has been deferred due to “absence of legal possibility.” Read more.
Brazilian academics ‘gaslighted’ in swirl of policy rumours
Rachael Pells, Times Higher Education, 01/15
Claims that Brazil’s new far-right president will force candidates for publicly funded scholarships to take an “ideology” test have provoked alarm among academics, in a sign of the anxiety gripping campuses since the installation of Jair Bolsonaro. Capes, Brazil’s federal postgraduate funding body, was forced to release a statement stating that there would be “no undertaking” of the exam. It was mooted in an article in leading newspaper O Globo, which stated that “new measures are being considered by the Ministry of Education” for the allocation of master’s and doctoral scholarships to students at home and going abroad, including an “ideological criterion”. Read more.
Rights groups demand release of Uyghur professor Ilham Tohti on fifth anniversary of arrest
Radio Free Asia, 01/15
Rights activists and Uyghur advocacy groups on Tuesday demanded the release from prison of Uyghur academic and blogger Ilham Tohti in statements marking the fifth anniversary of his arrest on charges of promoting separatism and subsequent sentencing to a life term behind bars. An outspoken economics professor who regularly highlighted the religious and cultural persecution of the mostly Muslim Uyghur ethnic minority in northwest China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), Tohti was sentenced on Sept. 23, 2014 following a two-day show trial. Read more.
Matthew Hedges, former UAE detainee, demands ‘acknowledgement’ of abuse
Ali Harb, Middle East Eye, 01/15
He was detained for seven months, held in solitary confinement, had drugs forced on him and was sentenced to life in prison. Now, British academic Matthew Hedges is free – and demanding accountability. “I’m not going to let my experience and my prosecution stand,” Hedges said at an event hosted by the American Society of International Law (ASIL) in Washington on Tuesday. Read more.
Malaysian progress towards institutional autonomy slows
John Ross, Times Higher Education, 01/15
Malaysia is in a bind as its new-broom government strives to jettison the country’s stifling Universities and University Colleges Act. The Pakatan Harapan administration has made some progress in dismantling the legislation, which restricts freedom of expression and gives the government the right to appoint university leaders. Read more.
The fate of academic freedom in Thailand
Tyrell Haberkorn, East Asia Forum, 01/10
On 11 December 2018 Thai Prime Minister General Prayuth Chan-ocha promulgated Head of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) Order No. 22/2561, which ostensibly relaxed restrictions on civilian participation in politics ahead of the elections planned for February 2019. Read more.
Swedish physician/professor in very bad health in Iranian prison: 124 Nobel laureates call for his release
Committee of Concerned Scientists, 01/09
Ahmadreza Djalali, a physician and lecturer living in Sweden, was arrested while in Iran for a presentation to other medical professionals. He was accused of spying and sentenced to death. He has now been confined for 2.5 years. Read more.
A just future for #MeToo starts with supporting sexuality research
Victoria Brooks, Times Higher Education, 01/09
If the #MeToo movement has taught us anything, it is that if we want to change the justice system to make it fairer to and less dismissive of women, that legal reform effort must be informed by a knowledge of female sexuality gained by listening to the experiences of women. Read more.
Deferred prison sentence of 1 year, 3 months for 1 academic
Assoc. Prof. Dr. Y.A. has been sentenced to 1 year and 3 months in prison on charge of “propagandizing for a terrorist organization.” The announcement of the verdict has been deferred. Read more.
Iran arrests demographers, the latest target amid an escalating crackdown on academics and activists
Melissa Etehad and Ramin Mostaghim, Los Angeles Times, 01/07
Academics with foreign ties living in Iran are on alert following the arrest of a demographer whose research led her to question the country’s decision to urge people to have more children. Read more.
Sudan arrests Khartoum University lecturers amid fresh protests
Sudanese security authorities have arrested several faculty members from Khartoum University, two professors said, after they joined anti-government protests that have posed the most serious challenge to President Omar al-Bashir’s rule. Read more.
Her husband was detained in Iran. Now she’s raising their child on her own.
Jessica Schulberg, HuffPost, 01/06
One summer evening a couple years ago, Hua Qu’s son’s preschool teacher pulled her aside. Shaofan, Qu’s son, had been pretending that bad guys had locked his dad in a dungeon inside of a big castle that was guarded by scary dragon. Read more.
China targets prominent Uighur intellectuals to erase an ethnic identity
Austin Ramzy, The New York Times, 01/05
As a writer and magazine editor, Qurban Mamut promoted the culture and history of his people, the Uighurs, and that of other Turkic minority groups who live in far western China. Read more.
Celebrating academic bravery
Eric Anthony Grollman, Inside Higher Ed, 01/04
In April 2015, I spoke on a panel on intellectual activism during the Parren Mitchell Symposium at the University of Maryland. That is the professional turf of Patricia Hill Collins — foremother of black feminist theory and author of On Intellectual Activism — so you know it was a significant event. Read more.
Mother of student held over Ortega protest in global plea for help
Hannah Summers, The Guardian, 01/03
The mother of a medical student facing more than 20 years in prison for protesting against the Nicaraguan government is appealing to the international community to put pressure on president Daniel Ortega’s regime. Amaya Eva Coppens, a Belgian-Nicaraguan dual national, is due to stand trial in the capital Managua after being “abducted” in a raid by more than 30 riot police and paramilitaries on 10 September. Read more.
Scholars are at risk all around the world – and Canada needs to lead
Melanie Adrian, Viviana Fernandez, Nandini Ramanujam, and Anneke Smit, The Globe and Mail, 01/03
Just before war broke out in her home country, Syrian chemist Hanadi Ibrahim, living in France, completed her PhD research on new drugs for cancer treatment. Dr. Ibrahim had never considered herself an activist, but upon her return to Syria, she felt called to join other academics to call out the injustices and persecution of so many people in her country. Read more.
‘Hundreds’ of cultural figures caught up in China’s Uyghur persecution
Lisa Movius, The Art Newspaper, 01/02
The recent detention of the photographer Lu Guang in north-west China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region has sparked a global outpouring of protest. Lu Guang, who is known for his work documenting the ecological and human devastation of development in remote regions in China, is the first cultural figure from the Han Chinese majority population to disappear into the prisons of Xinjiang. But most of the region’s Uyghur writers, artists and scholars have already been imprisoned. Read more.
British MPs, lawyers request visit to detained Saudi activists
Al Jazeera, 01/01
A cross-party group of British parliamentarians and international lawyers has asked to visit detained female activists in Saudi Arabia to investigate allegations that they are being tortured and denied legal representation and family visits. Read more.