On July 6, 2017, Turkish authorities reportedly issued detention warrants for 24 personnel from Selçuk University and Necmettin Erbakan University personnel, as part of an investigation of individuals alleged to have connections to a movement led by Fethullah Gülen, a Muslim cleric who authorities claim 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.
Immediately following the issuance of the warrants, 20 individuals, including academic and administrative personnel, were reportedly taken into custody, while authorities were still seeking the remaining four subjects of warrants as of this report.
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.