On August 31, 2016, an Istanbul court ordered the arrest of prominent linguist and writer Necmiye Alpay on charges including being a “member of a terror organization” and “disrupting the unity of the state,” apparently in connection with her affiliation with Özgür Gündem, a Turkish-language newspaper.
Sources indicate that on August 16, 2016, a court ordered the indefinite closure of Özgür Gündem, based on allegations of “producing terrorist propaganda” for the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Dr. Alpay, a member of the newspaper’s Editorial Consultancy Board, reportedly appeared in court on August 31 to provide a statement regarding the newspaper. Court authorities ordered her detained on grounds that she might flee the country; she was later arrested on charges of being a “member of a terror organization” and “disrupting the unity of the state.” Aslı Erdoğan, one of Turkey’s most well-known writers, had also been arrested in connection with the newspaper.
On December 29, during their first court hearing, authorities ordered Dr. Alpay, Ms. Erdoğan, and seven others affiliated with Özgür Gündem released; however they were barred from leaving the country pending the outcome of their trial.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the detention, arrest, and restricted travel of scholars in apparent retaliation for the peaceful exercise of the right to freedom of expression and freedom of association — conduct which 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. Such actions harm not only the immediate victim, but they have a chilling effect on academic freedom and democratic society generally. State authorities have an obligation protect the rights to freedom of expression and association and to refrain from actions that restrict such rights.