On December 20, 2016, Turkish authorities issued warrants for 33 Gediz University personnel, apparently in connection with allegations that they were involved with a violent coup attempt on July 15, 2016.
Following the July 15 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 Muslim cleric 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.
On July 21 — six days after the coup attempt — several Gediz University personnel were removed from their positions. Two days later, Turkish authorities ordered Gediz University (along with 14 other institutions) closed.
On December 20, with Gediz University still shuttered, Turkish authorities reportedly conducted simultaneous raids in four provinces across the country, seeking to arrest the 33 Gediz University staff for whom warrants had been issued. As of this report, a total of 14 Gediz personnel had reportedly been arrested, including Professor İştar Gözaydın, the head of Gediz’s sociology department. Gözaydın was reportedly suspended from her position in the July 21 purge.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the arbitrary suspension, arrest and 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 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.