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: November 06, 2020

Attack Types: Imprisonment

Institution(s):Various Institutions

Region & Country:Western Asia | Turkey

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On November 6, 2020, police reportedly detained thirty-eight students participating in a protest in front of the Council of Higher Education (YÖK).

Members of the Student Collective, an independent student group, held a demonstration in front of YÖK headquarters on YÖK’s 39th anniversary. The students called for the reopening of universities and closure of YÖK. Police arrested thirty-five students participating in the protest.

Shortly thereafter, police arrested three other students who were calling for the release of their peers. All thirty-eight students were released later that day.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the detention of students in response to the nonviolent exercise of the rights to freedom of expression, assembly, and association — conduct that is expressly protected by 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. While state authorities have a responsibility to maintain security and order, they also have an obligation to ensure that their actions are proportionate, do not harm members of the higher education community, and are not undertaken to restrict or retaliate against peaceful expressive activity. Such incidents undermine academic freedom, institutional autonomy, and democratic society generally.