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: May 30, 2017

Attack Types: Imprisonment

Institution(s):Dokuz Eylül University

Region & Country:Western Asia | Turkey

New or Ongoing:Ongoing Incident

On May 30, 2017, Turkish security forces reportedly detained 27 former academic personnel from Dokuz Eylül University (DEU), based on allegations that they are connected to Fethullah Gülen, a cleric whose movement authorities claim was responsible for a violent coup attempt on July 15, 2016. The personnel had reportedly been dismissed from their positions by order of emergency decrees, also based on their alleged involvement in the coup attempt.
Following the 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 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.
The evidentiary basis for the detention of the DEU personnel includes their alleged use of ByLock, a smartphone application that authorities claim was used in the coup attempt; accounts held at Bank Asya, which reportedly has ties to Mr. Gülen; and membership to foundations and other groups that are connected to Mr. Gülen. 
DEU personnel dismissed by decree who are suspected of being detained on May 30 include: Ali Bancar, Ali Cüneyt Eren, Ali Karatay, Betül İzmirli, Bülent Murat İçten, Cesim Ataş, Ertuğrul Yüksel, Haldun Sarnel, Ibrahim Akın Altun, Idris Erdem, İlker Uğulu, İrfan Yılmaz, Mehmet Vedat Pazarlıoğlu, Memet Vecih Uzunoğlu, Nurettin Yörek, Nurullah Akkoç, Onur Günay, Özlem Fedai, Ramazan Uyar, Salih Hakan Durmuş, Şenol Çekmece, Süleyman Başlar, Tahsin Altuncu, Turgay Ünver, Yunus Doğan, Zeyyat Bandeoğlu, and Ziya Şen.
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.