On January 16, members of an ultra-nationalist group targetted and physically attacked a group of seven students mainly leftists and/or Kurdish students on the campus of Marmara University Goztepe Campus in Istanbul. In recent months, several similar attacks have been reported on the Goztepe campus, including three separate attacks in a single week in November 2013.
Following the attack, a group of students staged a non-violent protest in front of the main entrance to the campus, demanding enhanced security and a safe university space. Police responded by firing water cannons, teargas and plastic bullets at the protesting students.
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. Scholars at Risk is also concerned about increased on-campus violence. State and university authorities have a responsibility to ensure a safe university space, and to prevent future attacks by holding perpetrators accountable.