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: June 09, 2023

Attack Types: Imprisonment

Institution(s):Middle East Technical University

Region & Country:Western Asia | Turkey

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On June 9, 2023, police detained around 15 Middle East Technical University (METU) students for holding a pride march on campus.

The march was intended to be the culmination of Pride Week at METU. The day before the march, on June 8, METU’s rector Verşan Kök sent a university-wide email announcing that the event was against the law and that if students went ahead with their plans, security would be mobilized. Anti-LGBTI+ posters were also posted on campus ahead of the march.

On the day of the march, students were met with a large police presence at the event’s starting point. Police blockaded the area and, when some students attempted to shelter in the library, began to detain them. Approximately six students were detained at the start of the march.

Despite the police intervention, students were able to carry out their march and to read a statement to the press. However, after the march concluded, police detained 10 more students who were waiting for taxis. Two students reportedly received head injuries while being detained. All 15 detained students were first transported to the hospital and released later that night after giving statements to the police.

In 2022, METU’s rectorate also banned an on-campus pride march (see report) and 38 students were detained while holding a march despite the ban (see report).

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the detention of students peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly on-campus – conduct that is expressly protected under 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 a responsibility to refrain from interfering in the peaceful exercise of the right to free expression and association. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, such incidents have a chilling effect on academic freedom, freedom of expression, and democratic society generally.

*SAR identified this incident in data made publicly available by the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED)