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: October 26, 2013

Attack Types: Killings, Violence, Disappearances

Institution(s):Middle East Technical University (ODTÜ)

Region & Country:Western Asia | Turkey

New or Ongoing:New Incident

Riot police reportedly used tear gas, flash bangs (stun grenades) and water cannons in an effort to disperse student protesters on the campus of Ankara’s Middle East Technical University (ODTÜ) on October, 18, 21 and 26, 2013.
The protesters were expressing opposition to the construction of a highway that would cut through the campus – one of the largest green spaces in Ankara – and would involve the clearing of roughly 3,000 trees.  On-campus construction of the road began on the evening of October 18, and was met with protests by dozens of students.  Riot police allegedly responded by firing tear gas into the crowd of protesters.  
Three days later, on the afternoon of October 21, a crowd of several hundred protesters reconvened at the construction site.  The protest continued that evening, with reports of attacks against protesters by unknown individuals dressed in civilian clothes, followed by isolated incidents of rocks being thrown at police.  The police allegedly responded with tear gas and flash bangs, injuring several protesters.
Finally, on October 26, riot police allegedly used tear gas once again, along with water cannons, to disperse some 500 protesters who had once again gathered at the site.  According to reports, one student was seriously injured.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the apparent use of disproportionate force by police against students engaged in the non-violent exercise of protected human rights, including free speech and association.  In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, such incidents have a chilling effect on academic freedom and undermine democratic society generally.  That harm is compounded when such attacks occur on campus, thus undermining institutional autonomy.