On February 4, 2021, police detained nine students as they were en route to the campus of Çanakkale Onsekiz Mart University (ÇOMÜ), where they planned to attend a political event.
Since January 2021, students and faculty across Turkey have held frequent protests in response to a controversial rector appointment by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at Boğaziçi University. Police have used force and arrested demonstrators in many of the protests.
ÇOMÜ students had organized an event called “Students from ÇOMÜ,” to discuss the oppression of student protesters at Boğaziçi, and discrimination against LGBTQI+ in the higher education space. Before the event could begin, police reportedly detained nine students at a bus stop on their way to the event. A video shows police forcefully pushing students into the back of a police van. Detainees were charged with several offenses, including “not complying with pandemic rules,” “resisting arrest,” and “opposing the Law on Meetings and Demonstrations No. 2911.”
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the detention of students apparently intended to restrict their peaceful exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of 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. State authorities have an obligation to refrain from restricting or retaliating against expressive activities and assemblies, so long as they are peaceful and responsible. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, the use of detentions in response to peaceful expressive activity on campus undermines academic freedom, institutional autonomy, and democratic society generally.