On May 11, 2018, an LGBTI Pride march that had been scheduled to take place on the campus of Middle East Technical University (METU) in Ankara was cancelled, following an announcement by the school’s rector.
METU has reportedly hosted an LGBTI pride festival, culminating with a march through campus, for the past seven years. In November 2017, however, Ankara’s mayor announced a blanket ban on all events, including “cinema, theatre, panels, interviews, exhibitions,” relating to the LGBTI community. Under the auspices of the mayor’s action, METU announced that the march would not be permitted. Despite the ban, however, LGBTI groups on campus reportedly were able hold a march and related LGBTI pride-related events.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the attempt to cancel or otherwise limit academic or political expression or freedom of association on campus – conduct which is expressly protected under international human rights instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Turkey is a party. State and university authorities have a responsibility not to interfere with such activities, so long as they are undertaken peacefully and responsibly. State and university actions limiting the rights to free expression or association on campus have a chilling effect on academic freedom and university autonomy, and undermine democratic society generally.