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: July 10, 2017

Attack Types: Imprisonment

Institution(s):Boğaziçi University | İstanbul Medeniyet University

Region & Country:Western Asia | Turkey

New or Ongoing:Ongoing Incident

On July 10, 2017, authorities reportedly issued detention warrants for 72 personnel from Boğaziçi University and İstanbul Medeniyet University, based on allegations that they are affiliated with Fethullah Gülen, a Muslim cleric who authorities claim was involved in a violent coup attempt on July 15, 2016. 42 personnel have reportedly been detained as of this report.

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.

Authorities issued the warrants in the early morning of July 10 for eight employees from Boğaziçi University and 64 others from İstanbul Medeniyet University. The evidentiary basis for the warrants reportedly included the alleged use of Bylock, an encrypted smartphone messaging application that authorities claim was used in connection with the coup attempt. As of this report, 42 personnel have been detained, including Koray Caliskan, a prominent scholar of political science at Boğaziçi University and a filmmaker. Professor Caliskan reportedly worked in the past as an advisor to the Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu, who recently led a march across Turkey in protest of government actions taken under the state of emergency.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about arbitrary detentions, orders to detain, and other sweeping actions targeting 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.