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: September 28, 2021

Attack Types: Imprisonment


Region & Country:Western Asia | Turkey

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On September 28, 2021, in Istanbul, police reportedly arrested about 80 students participating in a protest over the lack of affordable student housing.

Starting on September 19, students from various universities across the country began camping out and sleeping in parks or in the streets as part of a movement called Barınamıyoruz Hareket (“We Can’t Shelter”), to protest the rising cost of rent. Students allege that university dormitories don’t have enough space to accommodate all students, forcing them to find alternative housing. The rising cost of rent over the past year, largely due to inflation and COVID-19, has rendered unaffordable apartments and houses that students would otherwise have rented.

On September 28, as the protests had been ongoing for more than a week, police raided protest sites in Ankara, where they arrested 50, and Izmir, where they arrested another 28.

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.