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 11, 2017

Attack Types: Imprisonment


Region & Country:Western Asia | Turkey

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On July 11, 2017, authorities reportedly detained a university student accused of handling books written by Fethullah Gülen, who authorities allege was responsible for a violent coup attempt on July 15, 2016. The student has since been released under judicial probation.

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. 

Authorities reportedly received reports that books by Gülen were found in the trash, and identified the university student using fingerprints found on the books.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the arbitrary detention of a student, in apparent retaliation for her exercise of the right to academic freedom, conduct that is expressly protected under 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.