On October 26, 2016, authorities issued detention warrants for 55 academics and students from Dokuz Eylül University based on allegations they were involved in a violent coup attempt that occurred on July 15, 2016. 30 of these university personnel were subsequently detained in raids.
Following the July 2016 coup attempt, Turkish authorities declared a national state of emergency, which has been extended repeatedly, and remains in effect as of this report. They allege that members of a movement led by Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen were 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 authorities have reportedly accused the Dokuz Eylül University personnel of using ByLock, an encrypted smartphone application that was allegedly used in connection with the coup attempt. As of this report, Turkish authorities have not disclosed the identities of any of the 55 academics and students for whom detention warrants were issued; it is also unknown how many personnel or students remain in detention.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about arbitrary detentions and related, sweeping actions 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.