On May 29, 2017, Turkish authorities detained a former academic at Erciyes University, who had been dismissed from his position pursuant to a government decree, based on allegations that he was involved in a violent coup attempt on July 15, 2016. The scholar, identified by the initials YC, was preparing to flee Turkey for Greece before he was detained.
Following the July 2016 coup attempt, 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 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.
Academic personnel and other civil servants dismissed through government decrees have been barred from civil service positions for life, and had their passports invalidated indefinitely. To avoid arrest, detention, prosecution, and other threats, university personnel and others who have been dismissed by decree have attempted on several occasions to flee the country. Turkish authorities detained the former Erciyes University academic as he prepared to travel to Greece. His status remains unknown as of this report.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about arbitrary travel restrictions and detention of a scholar as a part of sweeping measures targeting members of the higher education community. 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, freedom of movement, 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.