On June 2, 2017, Turkish authorities issued detention warrants for 41 Namik Kemal University (NKU) personnel accused of having connections to a movement led by Fethullah Gülen, a Muslim cleric who authorities allege was 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 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.
Since the issuance of the warrant on June 2, at least 38 NKU personnel have reportedly been taken into custody, including NKU’s Rector Osman Simsek and the Dean of the Faculty of Economics and Administrative Sciences. As of this report, nine have been arrested, 26 have been released under judicial control, and two have been released without being criminally charged, while the status of the three other personnel remains unknown.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about sweeping actions, including arbitrary detentions and arrests, by States 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.