On January 20, 2017, Turkish authorities reportedly detained 19 academic personnel from Gaziosmanpaşa University (GU) for alleged links to Fetullah Gülen, who state authorities suspect of organizing 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.
The 19 detainees include scholars, research assistants, and lecturers from GU, whose names have not been disclosed. As of this report, the Tokat Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office is reportedly carrying out an investigation into the detainees.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the arbitrary detention of scholars as 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.