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 05, 2016

Attack Types: Imprisonment

Institution(s):Sakarya University

Region & Country:Western Asia | Turkey

New or Ongoing:Ongoing Incident

On September 5, 2016, security forces reportedly detained 11 academic personnel from Sakarya University, 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. 
The detainees, whose names have not been disclosed, include seven research assistants and four professors. As of this report, the evidentiary basis for their detention is unknown. One of the personnel was reportedly released on judicial control following the detention operation.
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.