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 27, 2017

Attack Types: Imprisonment

Institution(s):Özgür University

Region & Country:Western Asia | Turkey

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On November 27, 2017, Turkish counter-terrorism police raided the home of and briefly detained professor and renowned author Fikret Baskaya, reportedly based on allegations that he provided support  to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which is designated by Turkish authorities as a terrorist organization. The apparent basis for the allegation was an article that Professor Baskaya wrote in late 2016.

Dr. Baskaya is a professor of economic development and international relations, President of Özgür University, and the author of several controversial books on topics pertaining to socialism, politics, and corruption in Turkey. In 2004 he was sentenced to twenty months  imprisonment under Turkey’s anti-terrorism law in connection with his 1994 book, The Bankruptcy of the Paradigm, which criticized state policies related to Turkey’s Kurdish population.

On November 27, 2017, Turkish police raided Dr. Baskaya’s house at approximately 6:30 am, arresting him and seizing several of his personal possessions, including his laptop, mobile phone, and three books, including The Bankruptcy of the Paradigm. Sources indicate that  According to his lawyer, authorities cited as the basis for Dr. Baskaya’s arrest a November 2016 article he wrote titled “The Real Terror is State Terrorism.” Dr. Baskaya was released later that morning after giving a statement; it is unknown when court proceedings will commence.

Sources indicate that Dr. Baskaya’s detention was part of an operation targeting at least 17 other people, accused of providing various forms of support for the PKK.

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.

UPDATE: On November 22, 2019, a Turkish court acquitted Başkaya of “propagandizing for a terrorist organization.” The acquittal came on his third hearing. Başkaya was facing up to seven and a half years in prison.