On November 2, 2016, Turkish authorities reportedly issued arrest warrants for 137 academics around the country, based on allegations that they were connected to a violent coup attempt on July 15.
Authorities have alleged that members of a movement led by Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen are 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 mass dismissals of public employees, restrictions on travel, and other arrests.
As of this report, authorities had detained 73 of the 137 academics for whom warrants had been issued, while an additional 22 academics had reportedly fled the country.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the arbitrary detention of scholars 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 opinion and expression, 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. State authorities have an obligation to comply with internationally recognized standards of academic freedom, freedom of expression and freedom of association, as well as due process and fair trial.