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: February 07, 2021

Attack Types: Imprisonment | Prosecution

Institution(s):Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University

Region & Country:Western Asia | Turkey

New or Ongoing:Ongoing Incident

On February 7, 2021, police arrested Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University student Beyza Buldağ,  in connection with a Twitter account that was critical of the government’s actions targeting Boğaziçi University.

The Twitter account @boundayanisma was set up in response to mounting pressures on Boğaziçi University, the first of which was a controversial rector appointment by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Protests over the rector appointment were met by police using force against and detaining students. This included high-profile arrests of five students for an LGBTQ-themed art exhibit they displayed on campus during the protests. On February 6, 2021, the @boundayanisma Twitter account published an open letter addressed to President Erdoğan demanding the release of detained protesters and the resignation of the rector.

On February 7, 2021, police raided the Izmir home of Beyza Buldağ, detained her, and confiscated her computer and phone. Buldağ, a former student of Boğaziçi University, was accused of administering and posting to the Twitter account. Buldağ was later transferred to Istanbul and formally arrested for “provoking the public to enmity, hatred and hostility” and “provoking to commit crimes” in connection with the account and her alleged social media activity. 

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the arrest of a student in apparent retaliation for the alleged nonviolent exercise of the right to freedom of expression — conduct that is expressly protected under 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 the rights to freedom of expression, so long as they are nonviolent and responsible. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, arrests intended to restrict or retaliate against expressive activity, when directed against members of the higher education community, undermine academic freedom and democratic society generally.

UPDATE: On February 12, 2021, Beyza Buldağ was released from custody a day after a court rejected an appeal against her arrest.