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: January 05, 2021

Attack Types: Imprisonment

Institution(s):Boğaziçi University

Region & Country:Western Asia | Turkey

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On January 5 and 6, 2021, police reportedly detained seventeen students in apparent retaliation for their participation in a protest at Boğaziçi University.

On January 1, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan appointed new rectors to five universities. These included appointing Melih Bulu, a member of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), as the new rector of BU. BU faculty condemned the appointment, stating that it violated BU’s autonomy, academic freedom, and democratic values. On January 4, students demonstrated against the appointment in front of BU’s south campus, and in response, police fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse them. (See report)

The next day, authorities reportedly raided twenty-four homes and took seventeen people into custody in apparent retaliation for their participation in the protest. They reportedly took an additional fourteen into custody on January 6. As of this report, the students do not appear to have been criminally charged, although they reportedly face potential charges of violating Law Number 2911 on Meetings and Demonstrations and resisting arrest. In addition to the detentions, students’ homes were reportedly raided, and the students were reportedly strip-searched during the course of their detentions. They were reportedly released on January 7.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about detention and custodial mistreatment in response to the nonviolent, on-campus exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and assembly — 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.