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):Turgut Özal University

Region & Country:Western Asia | Turkey

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On July 10, 2017, authorities reportedly issued detention warrants for 40 personnel from Turgut Özal University (TÖU), based on allegations of connections with Fethullah Gülen, who authorities allege was responsible for 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. These actions have included the closing of TÖU, along with 14 other higher education institutions, that authorities allege “belong to, are connected or are in communication with the Fethullah Terrorist Organization” (see report).

Authorities have not disclosed the names of the 40 academic and administrative personnel from TÖU. Media sources report that authorities have accused them of using ByLock, an encrypted smartphone application that authorities allege was used in connection with the coup attempt. It is unknown how many personnel have been detained as of this report.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about arbitrary detention orders 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.