On December 28, 2017, Turkish authorities issued detention warrants for 23 personnel from Hacettepe University, apparently based on allegations of suspected connections with Fethullah Gülen, a muslim cleric 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 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.
Media sources report that authorities accused some of the detained suspects of using ByLock, an encrypted smartphone messaging application that they allege was used in connection with the coup attempt. Authorities have taken into custody 7 of the 23 personnel named in the warrants. Four of the personnel were reportedly still employed at the university, while others had been dismissed by order of emergency decree.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the arbitrary issuance of detention warrants for higher education personnel as a part of sweeping actions taken by the State against higher education community members. While State authorities have a right to maintain order and respond to legitimate security concerns, such actions must comply with State’s human rights obligations, including those relating to freedom of association, due process and academic freedom which are protected by international human rights instruments such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 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.