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 22, 2021

Attack Types: Imprisonment

Institution(s):Boğaziçi University

Region & Country:Western Asia | Turkey

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On October 22, 2021, police arrested 45 students participating in a protest at Boğaziçi University (BU) 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 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. .

On October 22, students pitched a tent on the BU campus, where they held a demonstration in protest of the appointments of Bulu and İnci. Several security guards removed the tent, triggering a sit-in by the students. When students attempted to make a press statement, police in riot gear entered campus and arrested 45 of the students. Students allege that police used excessive force while arresting them, including beating them and grabbing some by the throat.

On October 23, 43 of the students were released while two, were referred to the prosecutor’s office, released later that day subject to judicial supervision.

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 undermine academic freedom and democratic society generally.