On January 20, 2017, Turkish authorities reportedly issued detention warrants for at least 37 academic and administrative personnel from İstanbul Technical University 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 İstanbul Technical University academic and administrative personnel were reportedly identified as users of the Bylock application, an encrypted messaging application said to have been used by members of the Gülen movement. Following the issuance of the warrant, simultaneous operations reportedly began in 10 provinces to apprehend the suspects. Following the raids, at least 31 personnel have reportedly been detained.
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.