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 11, 2016

Attack Types: Imprisonment | Travel Restrictions

Institution(s):Marmara University

Region & Country:Western Asia | Turkey

New or Ongoing:Ongoing Incident

On September 11, 2016, police reportedly detained Hakan Akin, a professor at Marmara University’s Faculty of Medicine who was attempting to leave Turkey for Greece after being suspended from his position on allegations that he was 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.

On July 25, 2016, Marmara University officials reportedly suspended Professor Akin due to an investigation of suspicions that he was involved in the coup attempt. Professor Akin, among many other scholars and civil servants accused of connections with the coup attempt, planned to leave Turkey for Greece in order to avoid detention or arrest. On September 11, police detained Professor Akin in the town of Uzunköprü, located near the Meriç River, which separates Turkey from Greece. A court ordered his release later that day.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the arbitrary restriction on travel and detention of a scholar as a part of measures 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, freedom of movement, 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.