On March 25, 2021, police detained 24 students who were gathered at Boğaziçi University to support a student facing disciplinary action there.
The incident occurred against the backdrop of frequent student/faculty protests at Boğaziçi — many involving the use of force by police and arrests of nonviolent protesters — occurring since January, in response to a controversial rector appointment by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Students reportedly held the March 25 demonstration to protest the university’s investigation of a student for displaying a rainbow pride flag over the gates of the university on February 2. Students marched across campus to the Faculty of Education where a disciplinary meeting concerning the student was reportedly held. Police reportedly arrested 12 students, including the student under investigation, for carrying rainbow pride flags during the protest. Police arrested an additional 12 students after several of the protesters had dispersed. The following day, all 24 students were released.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the detention of students apparently intended to restrict or retaliate against their peaceful exercise of the rights to freedom of expression, freedom of association, and academic freedom — 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 such activities, 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 expression and assembly on campus undermines academic freedom, institutional autonomy, and democratic society generally.