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: September 02, 2016

Attack Types: Imprisonment

Institution(s):Mustafa Kemal University

Region & Country:Western Asia | Turkey

New or Ongoing:Ongoing Incident

On September 2, 2016, Turkish authorities reportedly detained 15 academic and administrative personnel from Mustafa Kemal University (MKU) based on allegations that they were involved in a violent coup attempt on July 15, 2016.
Following the coup attempt, Turkish authorities declared a national state of emergency, which has been extended repeatedly, and remains in effect as of this report. Authorities allege that members of a movement led by Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen are behind the coup attempt, and have accordingly taken a range of actions against members of the higher education community (among others) which they claim are intended to identify those parties involved, and/or to eliminate the Gülen movement’s influence within Turkish institutions. 
Authorities have not disclosed the identities of the detainees; however, they reportedly include assistant, associate, and full professors, as well as MKU’s former rector Hüsnü Salih Güder. Professor Güder, along with 2,346 other academic personnel, were ordered dismissed one day before their reported detentions, also based on allegations of involvement in the July 2016 coup attempt (see report). The evidentiary basis for their arrest and Professor Güder’s dismissal is unknown.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about sweeping actions, including arbitrary detention, taken by the state against higher education community members. While State authorities have a right to maintain order and respond to legitimate security concerns, such actions must comply with States’ human rights obligations, including those relating to freedom of association, due process, and academic freedom, which are protected by 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. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, such incidents have a chilling effect on academic freedom and undermine democratic society generally.