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: July 18, 2023

Attack Types: Other

Institution(s):Uşak University

Region & Country:Western Asia | Turkey

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On July 18, 2023, Uşak University announced that it had opened an investigation against a student who had waved a rainbow pride flag during a graduation ceremony.

On July 17, Melisa Caymaz unfurled a rainbow flag that she had hidden around her waist as she walked across the stage during a graduation ceremony held by the Uşak University’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences. The pro-government daily Yeni Şafak subsequently published the footage of Caymaz’s act. The associated article contended that “LGBT perversion…has risen at the university,” and prompted a series of threats against Caymaz.

On July 18, Uşak University released a statement on the social media platform X, distancing itself from Caymaz’s behavior, writing that Caymaz had acted “without the permission and knowledge of any authority” and that the university did not approve of her actions. The university’s rectorate also announced that it had initiated disciplinary action against Caymaz. The outcome of the disciplinary investigation was not publicly available.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about a university taking disciplinary action against a student for nonviolently exercising their right to freedom of expression – 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. Higher education authorities have an obligation to ensure due process, transparency, and fairness when engaging in disciplinary action. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, such incidents have a chilling effect on academic freedom and undermine democratic society generally.