On February 8, 2018, Turkish authorities reportedly issued detention warrants for 17 former Gazi University personnel, apparently based on alleged connections to Fethullah Gulen, who authorities claim 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.
Of the 17 university personnel named in the warrants, 11 have been detained, including some who had been dismissed by order of emergency decree. The evidentiary basis for the warrants reportedly includes the suspects’ alleged use of ByLock, an encrypted smartphone messaging application that they allege was used in connection with the coup attempt.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the arbitrary detention of 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.