On July 31, 2018, Turkish police detained a former medical professor from Inönü University and his wife in Edirne province, near the Turkey-Greece border.
Following the July 2016 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 Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen were 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.
According to reports, the professor (known by the initials A.K.) was dismissed from his position at Inönü University and barred from leaving the country by order of a state-of-emergency decree. Academic personnel and others who subjected to the decree orders have attempted to leave the country clandestinely in an effort to continue their work and seek safety. On July 31, 2018, police reportedly detained A.K. and his wife as they attempted to flee Turkey for Greece. As of this report, their status remains unknown.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about arbitrary travel restrictions and detention of academic personnel as a part of sweeping measures targeting members of the higher education community, among others. 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, freedom of movement, and academic freedom, which are protected by 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. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, such incidents have a chilling effect on academic freedom and undermine democratic society generally.