On March 8, 2017, Turkish security forces reportedly detained 31 academic and administrative personnel from Anadolu University on allegations of suspected connections to Fethullah Gülen, who authorities claim was responsible for a violent coup attempt on July 15, 2016.
Following the July 2016 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 detentions reportedly took place across five provinces – Eskişehir, Konya, Trabzon, Bursa and Adana — as part of an investigation launched by the Eskişehir Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office. The detainees, whose identities have not been disclosed, include three professors, nine assistant professors, 15 research assistants, and four computer technicians. Sources indicate that the evidentiary bases for the detentions include the alleged use of ByLock, an encrypted smartphone application, which authorities claim was used in connection with the coup attempt, as well as the possession of one dollar (USD) bills, which authorities claim signifies membership in Gülen’s movement.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the arbitrary detention of higher education community members 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.