On August 13, 2018, Turkish authorities reportedly issued detention warrants for 15 academic personnel and staff from Hacettepe University, apparently based on alleged connections with Fethullah Gülen, a muslim cleric 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.
The Hacettepe University staff named in the warrants reportedly include nine academics, some of whom were dismissed from their positions by order of state-of-emergency decrees. Nine personnel were reportedly taken into custody. Additional information, including the evidentiary basis for the warrants and the status of the detained personnel, has not been disclosed as of this report.
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.