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 20, 2016

Attack Types: Imprisonment

Institution(s):Aksaray University

Region & Country:Western Asia | Turkey

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On October 20, 2016, authorities detained 46 personnel from Aksaray University, including former Rector Mustafa Acar, based on allegations of connections with Fethullah Gülen, who authorities claim was responsible for 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.

Authorities conducted simultaneous raids in eight provinces across Turkey on October 20, seeking to detain the 46 Aksaray University personnel. Aside from Professor Acar, authorities have not released the names of those who were detained in the raids. The evidentiary bases for the detentions and the number of personnel who remain detained are unknown as of this report.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the arbitrary detention of university personnel 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.