On October 25, 2018, Turkish authorities reportedly issued detention warrants for at least 19 Gazi University personnel, based on alleged connections to a movement led by Fethullah Gülen, who authorities claim was responsible for a violent coup attempt on July 15, 2016.
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.
Reports indicate that, of the personnel named in the warrants, authorities have detained seven current and nine former academic personnel. The former personnel had reportedly been dismissed from their positions at Gazi University by order of a government decree, also based on allegations of connections to the Gülen movement. As of this report, there is no public information regarding the evidentiary basis of their detention or any charges brought against the detainees.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the arbitrary detention 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.