On February 4, 2021, a Turkish court issued an international travel ban against two students in apparent retaliation for their participation in a protest at Boğaziçi University (BU).
Since early January, students and faculty have held frequent protests in response to a controversial rector appointment by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Police have used force and arrested demonstrators in many of the protests.
On February 1, police arrested Boğaziçi graduates Ece Erten and Berlin Destand Zaman, along with 157 others, during a protest in Istanbul (see report). Authorities later released Erten and Zaman.
On February 4, a court-imposed an international travel ban and other measures, including requiring weekly check-ins at the police station, against Erten and Zaman. Erten and Zaman are planning to begin their postgraduate studies outside Turkey. Erten is enrolled in a Master’s program in Linguistics at the University of Paris, France, and Zaman is enrolled in a Master’s program in European studies at University of Siena, Italy. Due to the travel ban, Erten and Zaman are prohibited from attending their classes and pursuing their postgraduate studies.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about restrictions on students’ travel and related judicial measures in apparent retaliation for the nonviolent exercise of the rights 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 for Civil and Political Rights, to which Turkey is a party. State authorities have a responsibility to refrain from restricting or retaliating against such conduct. In addition to the harm to the immediate victim, travel restrictions intended to punish expressive activity undermine academic freedom and democratic society generally.