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: November 17, 2017

Attack Types: Imprisonment

Institution(s):Marmara University

Region & Country:Western Asia | Turkey

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On November 17, 2017, Turkish authorities issued detention warrants for 42 current and former academic and administrative personnel from Marmara University, based on suspected connections to Fethullah Gulen, who authorities claim was responsible for a violent coup attempt on July 15, 2016. As of this report, 22 of the personnel named in the warrants have been detained.

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 Mr. Gülen 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.

In Istanbul, authorities issued warrants for 42 personnel from Marmara University, alleging that they had used ByLock, a smartphone application that authorities claim was used by organizers of the coup attempt; in addition, authorities alleged that the Marmara University personnel had opened accounts at Bank Asya, which was closed shortly after the coup attempt due to alleged connections to Mr. Gülen’s followers. On November 17, police detained 22 personnel during raids on their offices at the university. The status of the remaining 20 personnel is unknown.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the arbitrary detention of and issuance of warrants for higher education personnel. 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.