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: June 02, 2017

Attack Types: Imprisonment

Institution(s):Anadolu University

Region & Country:Western Asia | Turkey

New or Ongoing:Ongoing Incident

On June 2, 2017, security forces reportedly detained six students from Anadolu University’s Faculty of Aeronautics and Astronautics, based on allegations of connections with a movement led by Fethullah Gulen, a Muslim cleric who authorities accuse of organizing a violent coup attempt on July 15, 2016. 

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.

According to reports, officers from the Anti-Smuggling and Organized Crimes division of the city of  Eskişehir’s security directorate conducted raids on the homes of the students. The six detained were all students or graduates in the Department of Space Studies. The status of the students remains unknown as of this report.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the arbitrary detention of students and academic personnel. 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 and due process, 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.