On May 6, 2019, the Middle East Technical University (METU) rector banned a Pride parade scheduled to take place on campus.
METU students have organized an annual Pride march for each of the past eight years. In November 2017, the Ankara governor imposed a ban on all events relating to the LGBTI+ community for an indefinite period under Turkey’s state of emergency. When the state of emergency ended in July 2018, however, the governor did not lift the ban, and the METU rector cancelled the 2018 Pride march (see report). Despite the ban, students held a peaceful Pride march on campus.
In April, 2019, an Ankara court ruled that the ban was “unlawful and restricted rights and freedoms in unconditional, vague, and disproportionate ways.” Nevertheless, in a May 6, 2019 email, the METU rector announced the cancellation of all LGBTI+ events scheduled between May 7 and 12. Students held a Pride march on May 10 but were met with police retaliation and 25 were arrested (see report).
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the attempt to cancel or otherwise limit the right to freedom of expression, freedom of association, and freedom of assembly 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.