On May 9, 2017, authorities reportedly detained 16 personnel from Eskişehir Osmangazi University (ESOGÜ) on allegations of being involved in a violent coup attempt on July 15, 2016.
Following the 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 allege that members of a movement led by Muslim cleric Fethullah 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 the morning of May 9, the Anti-Smuggling and Organized Crime police forces (KOM) detained the 16 ESOGÜ personnel. Their identities have not disclosed, but they reportedly include ESOGÜ’s vice rector and the deputy chief physician of the university’s medical faculty, as well as associate, assistant and full professors, and research assistants. As of this report, the personnel are being held for questioning at the KOM branch of the Eskişehir Police Headquarters.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about sweeping actions, including arbitrary detention, 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.