The administration of Mersin University in Turkey has commenced disciplinary proceedings against 121 students, suspending and/or barring a significant portion of those students from entering campus, in response to student protests that occurred in December 2013.
The protests began on December 19, 2013, in response to two incidents that students complained demonstrated the university’s failure to ensure safety on campus: in the first incident, university student Feride Özyağ died from an infection allegedly contracted in a campus dormitory. In the second incident, university student Bahar Salim was hit by a car and killed on the road from her dormitory to campus. Student protesters demanded that the university administration take responsibility for the student deaths, and take measures to ensure campus safety and health services.
In the course of their demonstration, the students entered and occupied the university’s president’s building. The university’s vice president then met with the students, agreed to some of their demands, and, after allegedly being assured that they would not be punished in connection with their part in the protests, the students disbursed. Nevertheless, on or about February 12, it was reported that the university administration had begun disciplinary proceedings against 121 students in connection with the protests. Of those, 27 students were suspended, excluded, or prohibited from reenrolling in classes.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the apparent wrongful dismissal or other retaliation against students for exercising their freedom of association and peaceful expression. Members of higher education communities have the right to engage in peaceful expression and association without fear of retaliation. An attempt to retaliate for, or otherwise limit, the peaceful exercise of these rights undermines university values and democratic society generally.