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: October 04, 2021

Attack Types: Imprisonment

Institution(s):Boğaziçi University

Region & Country:Western Asia | Turkey

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On October 4, 2021, police detained ten Boğaziçi University students participating in a protest on campus.

Beginning in January 2021, students and faculty across Turkey held protests in response to the controversial appointment of Melih Bulu to the position of rector of Boğaziçi University, by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Police used force and arrested demonstrators in many of the protests. Erdoğan eventually removed Bulu as rector of BU and, on August 20, appointed then-acting rector Professor Mehmet Naci İnci to the rector position permanently. This latest appointment triggered additional protests by students and faculty. When an internal poll was conducted over Inci’s appointment, 83% of the faculty turned out, and 95% of those voting opposed the appointment.

During an October 4 protest, a group of about 60 BU students reportedly blocked Naci İnci’s car, preventing it from leaving the BU campus. One student reportedly jumped on top of the roof of Naci Inci’s car, and was forcibly removed by police. Police detained a total of ten students for their participation in the protest.

At the police station, police reportedly released three of the students after taking their statements. The remaining seven were referred to the İstanbul Courthouse in Çağlayan. Four of those students were reportedly released on judicial control while the other three were referred to the İstanbul Penal Judgeship of Peace on Duty. On October 6, the court ordered the arrest of two of the remaining students, and the release of one under judicial control.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the detention of students in apparent retaliation of the nonviolent exercise of 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, detentions in response to peaceful student expression undermine academic freedom and democratic society generally.