On July 30, 2018, Turkish authorities issued detention warrants for 19 former personnel from Gazi University, apparently based on allegations of connections to a movement led by Fethullah Gulen, a Muslim cleric 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.
Gazi University was among fifteen private universities closed by order of decree on July 23, 2016, for alleged connections to the Gülen movement. A growing number of personnel from the closed universities have been detained or arrested, also based on alleged connections to Mr. Gülen. All 19 of the Gazi University personnel named in the warrants have reportedly been taken into custody. Authorities have not publicly disclosed further information about the detainees, including their identity, the evidentiary basis of their detention, and any charges brought against them.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about arbitrary detentions 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 States’ 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.