On April 12, 2018, Turkish authorities reportedly detained at least ten students outside the Council of Higher Education (YÖK), in Ankara, as they protested Osmangazi University’s (OU) response to an incident one week earlier in which four professors were killed on campus.
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, the exiled cleric whom Turkish authorities claim was responsible for the July 2016 coup attempt in Turkey (see report).
On April 12, members of a national student association known as Öğrenci Kolektifleri staged a peaceful protest in front of YÖK’s offices, demanding improved safety on campus, and the resignation of all university officials they claimed shared responsibility for the incident. The students reportedly called on YÖK to account for the violent killings, held banners, and shouted slogans including “Universities are ours. We will set them free”. Shortly after the gathering, police officers intervened, reportedly using force to disperse the crowd. At least ten students were briefly detained.
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 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.