SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities. Learn more.

Date of Incident: March 14, 2017

Attack Types: Imprisonment | Prosecution | Travel Restrictions


Region & Country:Western Asia | Turkey

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On March 14, 2017, Turkish authorities reportedly arrested Ibrahim Tawfiq Mohammed Anam, a Yemeni student who formerly attended Zirve University and Gediz University, both of which were closed in July 2016 over alleged connections to Fethullah Gülen, who authorities claim was responsible for a violent coup attempt on July 15, 2016. Mr. Anam faces deportation from Turkey.

Following a coup attempt in July 2016, Turkish authorities declared a national state of emergency, which has been extended repeatedly, and remains in effect as of this report. Authorities allege that members of a movement led by Mr. Gülen are behind the coup attempt, and have accordingly 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 23, 2016, 15 private universities, including Zirve University and Gediz University, were closed by order of an emergency decree due to suspected connections with the Gülenist movement (see report).

Mr. Anam traveled to Turkey in 2016 to begin his studies at Zirve University and later transferred to Gediz University to study electronic engineering in English. Following the July 23 order to close Gediz University, Mr. Anam was transferred to a public university. 

In February 2017, Turkey’s immigration department denied Mr. Anam’s request to renew his residency for reasons that remain unknown. On March 14, authorities arrested Mr. Anam on disclosed charges. Yemen’s embassy in Turkey has reportedly attempted to assist Mr. Anam, who is facing deportation proceedings.

Reports suggest that since Turkey declared a state of emergency, foreign students have been detained, deported, or denied entry into Turkey . Turkish authorities are reportedly holding students in camps originally built to house Syrian refugees, and are pressuring students facing deportation to sign forms attesting that they are leaving voluntarily.

Scholars at risk is concerned about arbitrary arrests, deportation proceedings, and related actions targeting 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 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.