On February 20, 2023, police detained and assaulted 23 peaceful student protesters during a demonstration against a government decision to shift universities to online learning following major earthquakes on February 6. The District Governor had banned the demonstration in advance, reportedly citing the protest as a threat to society.
A video posted to Twitter shows police, who appeared to outnumber the protesters, surrounding the group of students and forcing them onto a bus. Police reportedly beat the students while they were detained on the bus. The length of the detention is unclear, however on February 21, it was reported that the students had been transported to police station and released shortly after.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about police using force against and detaining students for the peaceful exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly – conduct that is 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. While state authorities have a responsibility to maintain public order and safety, they must exercise restraint and ensure that their actions and policies are undertaken with due regard for relevant international human rights principles including the rights to freedom of expression and assembly. In addition to harm to the immediate victims, such arbitrary detentions and the excessive use of force undermine academic freedom and democratic society generally.