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 30, 2016

Attack Types: Loss of Position

Institution(s):Galatasaray University

Region & Country:Western Asia | Turkey

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On September 30, 2016, Galatasaray University cancelled Professor Şebnem Korur Fincancı’s classes in forensic science, apparently in response to her having signed a petition calling on the Turkish government to end its crackdowns targeting Kurdish rebels in the southeastern part of the country.

Following the publication of the petition (known as the “Academics for Peace Petition”) in January 2016, Turkish state and higher education authorities began taking sweeping actions against its signatories. All 1,128 signatories were immediately placed under investigation, with many later suffering professional retaliation, detentions, arrests, prosecutions, travel restrictions, and other pressures.

Professor Fincancı was also detained for ten days in June 2016, and charged with “making terrorist propaganda,” in connection with her participation in a campaign to support press freedom in Turkey (see report). Professor Fincancı has been teaching at Galatasaray University since 2006. She reports that Turkey’s Higher Education Council had ordered university officials to cancel her classes.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about professional retaliation against a scholar apparently in retaliation for the peaceful exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of association — conduct that is expressly 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. 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 expression, freedom of association, and due process. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, such incidents have a chilling effect on academic freedom and undermine democratic society generally.