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: April 12, 2018

Attack Types: Killings, Violence, Disappearances | Imprisonment

Institution(s):Osmangazi University

Region & Country:Western Asia | Turkey

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On April 12, 2018, state authorities reportedly used violent force against and detained Osmangazi University (OU) students protesting the violent killing of four OU personnel on April 5.

On April 5, 2018, OU research assistant Volkan Bayar reportedly shot and killed four of his colleagues, falsely accusing them of being supporters of Fethullah Gülen, an exiled cleric whom Turkish authorities claim was responsible for a violent coup attempt on July 15, 2016 (see report). OU Rector Hasan Gönen resigned from his post following allegations that he had not correctly responded to reported concerns that Bayar was a threat to the campus community.

On April 12, one day after Rector Gönen resigned, a group of OU students reportedly held a press conference at the university cafeteria, during which one of the student spokespersons, Anıl Ataş, declared that Professor Gönen’s resignation was not enough, and that responsibility for the April 5 killings extended to other OU personnel, Turkey’s Council of Higher Education (YÖK), and the State of Emergency policies generally.

Students distributed flyers and held banners reading “Bullets fired on four academics are actually fired on science.” Police officers and university security guards reportedly used force to restrict the students’ actions. Police arrested three of the students, who were released later in the day.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the use of force against and detention of students in retaliation for the peaceful exercise of the rights to academic freedom, freedom of expression and freedom of assembly — conduct which is expressly protected under 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. State and university authorities have a responsibility to protect the peaceful exercise of such rights. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, such incidents have chilling effect on academic freedom, institutional autonomy, and democratic society generally.