On August 23, 2021, Turkish police briefly detained eight Boğaziçi University (BU) students peacefully protesting against the appointment of a new rector to the university.
Beginning in January 2021, students and faculty across Turkey held protests in response to a controversial appointment of the Boğaziçi University rector by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Melih Bulu. Police used force and arrested demonstrators in many of the protests. Erdoğan eventually removed Bulu as rector of BU and, on August 20, appointed acting rector Professor Mehmet Naci İnci as the new rector. This latest appointment, however, triggered additional protests from students and faculty. 95% of faculty voting in an internal poll opposed İnci. 83% of the faculty turned out for the vote.
Eight BU students gathered at a local office of the ruling Justice and Development Party, in Sarıyer, to read a statement in protest of what they called the “undemocratic” appointment of BU’s rector. According to the BU student-run Twitter account, Boğaziçi Solidarity Group, all eight of the students were detained and questioned by police. Police released the students that evening.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the arbitrary detention of students peacefully exercising their 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, detentions in response to peaceful student expression undermines academic freedom and democratic society generally.