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: September 01, 2023

Attack Types: Other

Institution(s):Boğaziçi University

Region & Country:Western Asia | Turkey

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On September 1, 2023, it was reported that Boğaziçi University (BU) had launched disciplinary investigations against ten faculty members for their participation in daily protests against Melih Bulu, the current rector of the university.

On January 1, 2021, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan dismissed BU’s previous rector Mehmed Özkan and replaced him with Bulu, a member of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), sparking student and faculty protests. Since that time, faculty members have held daily silent protests. During these protests, which last 15-minutes, faculty members wearing their academic robes turn their backs to the rector’s office.

In letters dated June 1, 2023 and July 7, 2023, BU threatened judicial and administrative action against university employees who engage in acts of protest, including issuing press releases, setting up stands or tents, distributing leaflets, or using university grounds for unauthorized meetings, ceremonies, or similar purposes. The letter stated that those violating the rules could face fines or imprisonment.

Around September 1, BU’s rectorate launched disciplinary investigations against ten of the faculty members who participated in the daily protests, alleging that they were engaged in “lawlessness” and citing the June and July letters. The rector’s office also accused the protests of discouraging prospective students from enrolling at BU and threatened judicial, criminal, and administrative proceedings if the faculty members continued. It was not clear what the outcomes of the disciplinary investigations were.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about disciplinary actions or investigations brought against faculty members in retaliation for the peaceful exercise of their rights to freedom of expression and assembly – conduct which 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. University 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 harm to the immediate victims, disciplinary investigations are unduly burdensome and disruptive and undermine academic freedom, free expression on campus, and democratic society generally.