SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities. Learn more.

Date of Incident: May 10, 2019

Attack Types: Killings, Violence, Disappearances | Imprisonment | Prosecution

Institution(s):Middle East Technical University

Region & Country:Western Asia | Turkey

New or Ongoing:Ongoing Incident

On May 10, 2019, police fired tear gas on demonstrators on the campus of Middle East Technical University (METU) and detained 25 people, in apparent retaliation for participating in a peaceful campus Pride parade.

On May 6, the METU rector reportedly announced that the annual campus Pride parade would not be permitted (see report). When students held the Pride parade on campus despite the ban, police reportedly informed them they were not permitted to fly a rainbow flag, sit on the lawn, or stand under tents. Police prevented students from reading a prepared statement, before reportedly firing tear gas at the group, and then arresting 24 students and one professor. Information regarding whether the students and professor face any charges is unavailable as of this report.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about violence against, and the arrest of students and a scholar, in apparent retaliation for their peaceful exercise of the right to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly – conduct that is expressly protected under 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. State authorities have a responsibility to refrain from interfering in the peaceful exercise of the right to free expression and association on campus. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, such incidents have a chilling effect on academic freedom, freedom of expression, and democratic society generally.

UPDATE: On July 2, it was reported that the Credit and Dormitories Institution (KYK) of the Ministry of Education cut the scholarships and educational loans of several students from METU who were arrested for participating in the campus’s Pride parade. KYK also required the student to pay the institution their accumulated tuition fees. In a letter notifying the students, KYK reportedly cited a regulation that scholarships were not to be given to students “involved in anarchy and terrorism.”

UPDATE: On August 5, 19 of those previously arrested were notified that they faced charges of “participating in unlawful assembly” and “resisting despite warning,” for their participation in the Pride parade. The first hearing for the students is scheduled for November 12, 2019.