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: March 04, 2020

Attack Types: Killings, Violence, Disappearances

Institution(s):University of Antioquia

Region & Country:Americas | Colombia

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On March 4, 2020, Sara Fernandez, a professor at the University of Antioquia, was violently attacked in her home in what appeared to be a politically motivated attack.

Fernandez is a professor in the university’s Faculty of Social and Human Sciences. She is also the secretary of the Association of Professors of the University of Antioquia and is considered to be a well-known trades-unionist in Colombia.

According to news reports, the attack occurred during the early morning hours of March 4, when a man broke into Fernandez’s home and stabbed her in the chest, piercing her lung. The assailant fled via the second-floor balcony and was soon after arrested. Fernandez was hospitalized and is recovering from her injuries.

Just two days prior to the attack, on March 2, pamphlets marked with the logo of the narco-paramilitary group Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia (AGC) were circulated on the university’s campus. The pamphlets included threats against student and faculty groups, including Fernandez’s association, and called for an end to protest activities on campus. For weeks, students had been engaged in frequent protests against the government and the presence of riot police on campus. The AGC has denied issuing the pamphlets.

As of March 18, the results of a police investigation into the attack do not appear to have been publicly disclosed.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about a violent, targeted attack on a professor in apparent connection with their expressive activities or associations as well as threats directed at faculty and student groups in an effort to restrict campus expression. State and university authorities have a responsibility to investigate such incidents, hold perpetrators accountable, and take all available measures to ensure a safe, open, and free university space. In addition to the harm to the immediate victim, such incidents undermine academic freedom and harm democratic society generally.