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: October 02, 2016

Attack Types: Imprisonment | Prosecution

Institution(s):Ege University

Region & Country:Western Asia | Turkey

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On October 2, 2016, authorities reportedly issued detention warrants for 23 academic personnel from Ege University, based on allegations of connections with Fethullah Gülen, who authorities claim was responsible for a violent coup attempt on July 15, 2016. To date, fifteen of the personnel were reportedly detained.

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 23 Ege University personnel, whose names have not been disclosed, are reportedly accused of using ByLock, an encrypted smartphone application that authorities allege was used in connection with the coup attempt. It is unknown how many personnel were and remain detained as of this report.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the arbitrary detention of academics as a part of sweeping actions 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.