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 08, 2016

Attack Types: Imprisonment | Prosecution

Institution(s):Mevlana University

Region & Country:Western Asia | Turkey

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On September 8, 2016, security forces issued detention warrants for 44 academic personnel from Mevlana University, based on allegations that they were involved in the Gülen movement, which authorities have alleged organized the 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 Mr. 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. Actions ordered by the Turkish authorities have included the closing of Mevlana University, among 14 others, suspected of connections with the Gülen movement (see report).

On September 8, 2016, authorities detained 23 former academic personnel from Mevlana University, based on coup-related allegations. Nine of the detained personnel were later arrested for alleged connections with the Gülen movement, while the other 14 were released under judicial supervision. The status of the 21 remaining personnel is unknown.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about arbitrary detentions, arrests, and other sweeping actions targeting 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.