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: October 20, 2017

Attack Types: Imprisonment

Institution(s):Center for Middle Eastern Strategic Studies | University of Economics and Technology

Region & Country:Western Asia | Turkey

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On October 20, 2017, Turkish authorities reportedly detained Şaban Kardaş, a scholar of international relations at the University of Economics and Technology, as part of an operation targeting individuals who authorities allege participated 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. Authorities allege that members of a movement led by Fetullah Gülen, a cleric residing in the United States, are behind the coup attempt, and have 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.

Sources indicate that Dr. Kardaş, who also chairs the Center for Middle Eastern Strategic Studies, was detained at his home on October 20 and later taken to the İstanbul Security Directorate Anti-Terror Bureau for questioning. His detention was reportedly part of an investigation into a group of individuals identified by authorities as suspects in the coup attempt, including Osman Kavala, a prominent human rights activist and business leader who was detained one day earlier. The evidentiary basis of Dr. Kardaş’ detention has not been publicly disclosed.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the apparently arbitrary detention of a scholar. 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 victim, such incidents have a chilling effect on academic freedom and undermine democratic society generally.