On May 23, 2014 three student activists were arrested and taken to an undisclosed location after helping to organize a flashmob-style student protest on the campus of Baku State University (BSU). Two of the arrested students, Subhan Gambarli and Tamerlan Feyzullali, are members of “Azad Gənclik Təşkilatı” or Free Youth Organization; the third student, Huseyn Garasulu, is a member of National Front Party of Azerbaijan (AXCP), one of the leading parties of the opposition wing.
The main purpose of the flashmob was to protest a decision of the Ministry of Education to increase tuition fees. The Ministry had set May 19th as the deadline for tuition payments, and rejected student groups’ request for an extension of that deadline. In response, students organized a protest during which each student symbolically threw coins onto the front yard of the main university building. The students were reportedly released a few hours after they were taken into custody.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the detention of students in retaliation for, or to prevent, their involvement in the non-violent exercise of protected human rights, including freedom of expression and association. Arbitrary detention of students in response to such protests exerts a chilling effect on academic freedom and undermines university autonomy.