On March 26, 2021, Turkish police detained over 50 protesters, mostly students, who had gathered at an Istanbul courthouse in support of students who were detained on Bogaziči University’s campus the previous day.
The protesters called for the release of at least twenty 20 students who were detained for carrying rainbow flags (a symbol of pride within the LGBTQ community) in support of a classmate who was being investigated by the university for displaying a rainbow flag over the university’s gates on February 2.
Outside the courthouse, protesters held signs, waved rainbow flags, and chanted in support of the detained students, who were expected to appear in court that day. Videos posted to Twitter showed police shoving and pushing a number of protesters to the ground before dragging them into a police bus.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the use of detentions to restrict students and other members of the public peacefully exercising 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 student expression undermines academic freedom, institutional autonomy, and democratic society generally.