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: January 14, 2016

Attack Types: Imprisonment | Prosecution | Loss of Position

Institution(s):Erzurum Atatürk University

Region & Country:Western Asia | Turkey

New or Ongoing:Ongoing Incident

On January 14, 2016, Ramazan Kurt, a scholar of philosophy and history of philosophy from Erzurum Atatürk University, was reportedly detained and terminated from his position after signing a petition calling on the Turkish government to end its crackdowns targeting Kurdish rebels in the southeastern part of the country.

The petition, signed by 1128 scholars from 89 Turkish universities, as well as more than 300 scholars from outside the country, demands an end to fighting between Turkish forces and members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).  It accuses that the government of the “deliberate massacre and deportation” of civilians, and calls on the government to allow independent observers into the region, end curfews, and renew peace efforts. 

Following the publication of the petition on January 11, 2016, public authorities placed all of its 1128 Turkish signatories under investigation.  Since that time, many of the scholars who signed the petition have reportedly faced criminal, as well as professional retaliation.

Professor Kurt was reportedly detained in connection with charges including  “terror propaganda,” “incitement to hatred or defaming people” and “defaming the state’s judicial bodies.” He later reportedly discovered that he had been dismissed from his position after learning that he could not log in to his university email account.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about detention and professional retaliation against scholars in response to the nonviolent exercise of the rights to academic freedom, free expression and free association, conduct that is expressly protected under international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Turkey is a party.  Where they are a part of a widespread pattern, such incidents have a profoundly chilling effect on academic freedom, undermine democratic society generally, and may represent a grave threat to higher education on a national scale.  State and university authorities have an obligation to comply with internationally recognized standards of academic freedom, freedom of expression and freedom of association, as well as due process and fair trial.

This is an update to an earlier report.  To view, please click here