SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities. Learn more.

Date of Incident: April 10, 2013

Attack Types: Other

Institution(s):Azad Fikir University

Region & Country:Western Asia | Azerbaijan

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On April 10, 2013 authorities in Azerbaijan closed Azad Fikir University (Free Thought University).
The university announced the closure on its Facebook page, stating in part “… Today in the morning, representatives of the chief Prosecutor’s Office arrived at the Free Thought University without any prior information, sealed the door and closed the office…” Authorities denied closing the university, stating instead that the General Prosecutor’s Office representatives were on campus in connection with a criminal investigation into opposition student group NIDA and its connections to Ol!, the youth movement which founded Azad Fikir University in 2009.
On May 1, AFU reported on its Facebook page that the university was unsealed by the prosecutor. However, the post went on to report that the university’s lease with the building’s owner was terminated. The university says its search for a new facility will likely cause a disruption of classes, which were scheduled to resume in September.
AFU, an alternative education institution, is funded largely by international organizations and the US and UK governments, and is dedicated to promoting democracy and human rights in Azerbaijan. According to reports, there have been increased crackdowns on youth organizations in Azerbaijan, allegedly due to their involvement in recent anti-government rallies. 
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the sudden suspension of activities at Azad Fikir University without adequate notice and the apparent link between the government’s action and the termination of the institution’s lease, all of which undermine institutional autonomy and academic freedom.
Sources:
http://www.rferl.org/content/azerbaijan-democracy-university/24954500.html
http://www.eurasianet.org/node/66820
http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2013/apr/11/embassy-row-azeris-shut-university/?page=all
http://photos.state.gov/libraries/azerbaijan/749085/hajiyevsx/afu_press.pdf
http://www.news.az/articles/society/78755
http://iipdigital.usembassy.gov/st/english/texttrans/2013/04/20130418146043.html#axzz2TqiEB4WU
http://www.azadliq.org/content/article/24972363.html [Azeri]
http://anspress.com/index.php?a=2&lng=az&nid=199526 [Azeri]