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 24, 2016

Attack Types: Imprisonment

Institution(s):Canik Başarı University

Region & Country:Western Asia | Turkey

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On October 24, 2016, authorities detained at least 34 academic and administrative personnel from now-closed Canik Başarı University, based on alleged connections with Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, who authorities charge 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 multiple times, and remains in effect as of this report. Authorities have alleged that members of a movement led by Fethullah Gülen were behind the coup attempt, and have 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. These actions have included the ordered closure of Canik Başarı University, along with 14 other higher education institutions, based on alleged connections to the Gülen movement (see report).

Authorities have not disclosed the names of the 34 personnel who were detained during simultaneous raids in nine provinces. The personnel have reportedly been accused of (a) depositing money into Bank Asya, a bank with connections to Gülen’s followers, whose banking license was revoked following the coup attempt; and (b) using ByLock, an encrypted smartphone application that authorities allege was used in connection with the coup attempt. It is unknown how many personnel remain detained 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.