SAR Switzerland

The SAR Swiss Section (SAR Switzerland) promotes the values, mission and activities of Scholars at Risk by hosting scholars at threat, sharing information on good practice and initiating joint activities. Scholars looking for a placement at a higher education institution in Switzerland through the services of Scholars at Risk are advised to consult this information for prospective SAR scholars in Switzerland.

SAR Switzerland comprises 24 member institutions. The Assembly is the highest authority, supported by a Steering Committee with Roger Pfister as Chair (Head of International Cooperation, Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences), Annie Cottier (University of Bern), Sara Elmer (University of Zurich), Luna Iacopini (University of Applied Sciences and Arts of Western Switzerland HES-SO) and Catrin Scheiber (University of Lucerne).

For more information: Terms of ReferenceFlyer of SAR Switzerland


Welcome to SAR scholar from Turkey at the University of Bern

Welcome to SAR scholar from Turkey at the University of Bern

May 17, 2021

Since April 2021, Emirhan Darcan is a SAR scholar at the Institute for Penal Law and Criminology at the University of Bern. With a PhD from Rutgers University, he has theoretical and hands-on experience in security, crime analysis and international security cooperation. He has worked with security professionals, sociologists, politicians and liaison officers to do fieldwork in various security-related topics, policy analyses on legal aspects of governments’ counterterrorism practices as well as political risk analysis.

Read More

Report "Free universities: putting the academic freedom index into action"

March 12, 2021

New threats to academic freedom globally have emerged as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the shift to physically distanced teaching, learning and examinations and virtual offerings or remote collaborations online, according to just-published global data and analysis.

Read More
Turkey: Institutional Autonomy Under Threat

Turkey: Institutional Autonomy Under Threat

February 1, 2021

Scholars at Risk has joined international partners in endorsing the petition regarding recent events at Turkey’s Boğaziçi University. On January 1, 2021, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan used an emergency decree from 2016 (KHK 676) to appoint Professor Melih Bulu, a loyal member of the ruling party, rector of Boğaziçi University. Bulu is not a member of the Boğaziçi University faculty, which violates the established rules and practices of University governance. This underscores the threat to university autonomy that Decree No. 676 and its successor law represent. Boğaziçi faculty and students have recognized this threat through a series of peaceful protests, which police have responded to with violent force, including the use of tear gas and rubber bullets, and arrests. The petition calls upon Professor Bulu to decline the position and calls upon the Turkish government to release any students still in custody, withdraw all charges, and respect academic freedom and university autonomy.

Read More
UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression

UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression

November 18, 2020

This recent report focuses on the role and protection of academic freedom. Highlighting the special place of academics and academic institutions in democratic societies, the report also affirms the responsibility of states and governments to protect academic freedom and challenges higher education institutions and civil society to press policy makers to address the issue. In September, the report was submitted for consideration to the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly.

Read More



Testimonials of SAR scholars

Higher education institutions in Switzerland so far hosted SAR scholars from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Serbia, Syria and Turkey. Some of them share their experiences below.

Çağla E. Aykaç, Turkey (University of Geneva, 2017)
I was part of a group of scholars to sign the petition «We will not be a party to this crime!» in early 2016, calling for a return to the peace process in Turkey. Following this, we were accused of treason and hunted down in universities. I received death threats, like many colleagues, and had to be escorted on campus for protection purposes. Eventually, I was “encouraged” to resign from my academic position, after six years of tenure track teaching. I left with a colleague, as we knew our academic carrier in Turkey was over. Integration as a SAR scholar at the University of Geneva and its School of Social Sciences was greatly facilitated by colleagues from different units who organised and invited us to public lectures and seminars, and tried to find additional support to host us. Challenges were bureaucracy, work permits and housing issues; language skills are essential for integration. I continue to research and teach at the University of Geneva until today, and I mentor students who are in Turkey and cannot leave the country. Research profile

Oula Abu-Amsha, Syria (University of Geneva, 2014-15 & University of Applied Sciences and Arts of Western Switzerland HES-SO, 2016)

Prior to the civil war, I was a professor in Computer Science in Damascus, Syria. Forced to flee my country in 2012, I moved to Lebanon. In 2013, I secured a scholarship with Scholar Rescue Fund, and my family was preparing to move to Switzerland. SAR support was key to open the door to Swiss academia by facilitating the connection with the University of Geneva first and then with the University of Applied Sciences and Arts of Western Switzerland. This two-year fellowship allowed me to update my skills, conduct research and teach. SAR support was essential to help me rebuild my professional network, which is crucial. While not able to continue in the small and highly competitive Swiss academia, I am contributing to refugee education, which is the most meaningful mission for me as an exiled scholar. Research profile

Emirhan Darcan, Turkey (University of Bern, 2021-22)

Emirhan Darcan

Tasting forced displacement of a researcher is a mixture of sweet and bitter, a feeling I believe many more forced displaced academics and researchers around the world today share. An Istanbulite by birth, I am a European by choice and the values that I uphold, while I became a New Yorker over the years related to my doctoral studies there. After completing my PhD in Criminal Justice, I worked on the Kurdish territory in Turkey. In that context, I have always been very vocal about and have written extensively about preventing violent extremism in the community. Due to Turkey’s troubled experiment with secularism and freedom of speech, I started working as a SAR scholar at the University of Bern. The contribution of this university and SAR is crucial for me to continue my projects and academic studies on preventing radicalism and extremism. Research profile


Farès Mahmoud, Syria (University of Geneva, 2018-20 & University of Lausanne, 2020-22)

After fleeing the war situation in my home country, the University of Geneva offered me a safe place to work in the Department of Geography and Environment in 2018. Working there was a great opportunity to collaborate with many local and international colleagues, and to learn from the latest scientific discoveries in my field of expertise. At the same time, I could share my experience related to transport networks in Syria through presentations in a series of internal university seminars. The stay in Geneva also stabilised the life of my family, in particular my daughter. Having suffered from moving between countries, she settled down and integrated with colleagues, began to speak French and is making great progress in her studies. Contact details; report on UNHCR Switzerland website (German / French)

Veysel Demir, Turkey (University of Bern, 2017-19 & Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology Eawag, 2020-22)
Emirhan Darcan

In the wake of the coup d’état attempt in Turkey in 2016, I lost my position as associate professor in environmental engineering at Tunceli University. My wife also lost her academic position, two lawsuits were opened against us and our passports cancelled. Seeing that many public officers were arrested, we fled with our two children and sought asylum in Switzerland. I found employment for two years at the University of Bern, whose funding was matched by the Scholar Rescue Fund, allowing me to publish in a well-respected journal, improve my research skills, learn German and established contacts with ETH Zurich and Eawag, where I found a one-year position. The stay in Bern greatly facilitated my integration in Switzerland, but finding long-term employment in academia or industry is challenging. Research profile; report in University of Berne online magazine

Guilain Mathé, Democratic Republic of the Congo (University of Lausanne, 2011-14)

I fled my home country in 2008 following numerous death threats I received related to my research as a political scientist on civil wars and my commitment as a human rights defender. A scholarship from the Scholar Rescue Fund allowed me to continue my work at research institutions in Senegal and then Côte d’Ivoire. Following the outbreak of the civil war there in 2010, I obtained a safe haven at the Institute of Political, Historical and International Studies of the University of Lausanne within the framework of Scholars at Risk. With support from both University of Lausanne and SAR, I was granted asylum in Switzerland. This greatly facilitated the completion of my PhD, following which I could work at the Geneva Graduate Institute’s Small Arms Survey programme during 2019. Research profile

Engin Sustam, Turkey (University of Geneva, 2016-17)

With a PhD in Sociology from EHESS in Paris, I returned to Turkey in 2012, excited to contribute to the beginning peace process between the Turkish government and the Kurdish political movement. Yet, during 2015/16 I lost three academic positions on grounds of my Kurdish and Alevi identity as well as of my academic activities related to the political situation, including the signing of the Academics for Peace petition “We will not be a party to this crime!” against war and violence. After settling in at the University of Geneva, I published a book and newspaper articles, and spoke at conferences. The solidarity and friendship from colleagues were incredibly valuable. Yet, the uncertainty made me move to France where I obtained a fellowship from the PAUSE programme for Paris 8 University until October 2019. My situation in France is precarious, and returning to Turkey is not an option. Research profile

Sreten Ugričić, Serbia (University of Lucerne, 2017-19)

After ten years at the helm of the National Library of Serbia, the government removed me from office in 2012, accusing me of “supporting terrorism” because I had co-signed an appeal with Serbian writers to stop a political motivated media campaign against an Montenegrin author. The authorities also launched an orchestrated media campaign against me that lasted for months. When the Minister of Internal Affairs, who had publicly threatened to arrest me, became prime minister, I went into exile. In 2016 I could enroll as a PhD student at the University of Lucerne, with employment as a Research Fellow. This allowed me to write up my doctoral thesis, and to share my literary knowledge through lectures in Lucerne and beyond on post-Yugoslav literature and on the relation between politics and art. This was all possible due to a supportive environment at different levels at the University of Lucerne. Research profile

Ayşe Dayi, Turkey (University of Lausanne, 2016-18)

I left Turkey in 2016, after the dismissal from my academic position for signing the petition “We will not be a party to this crime!” and realising that the situation would become riskier for us signatories. After a two-month visiting scholarship in Paris, I came to the University of Lausanne as a SAR scholar. The stay there allowed me to continue my research on women’s health, to publish articles, give talks at conferences and co-organise two international symposia. I also engaged in activities to raise awareness regarding academic freedom in Turkey and to increase hosting opportunities for SAR scholars in Switzerland. Despite the very supportive environment in Lausanne and by SAR Switzerland, my situation as a senior researcher and as a temporary faculty was challenging: I was not eligible for Postdocs and did not qualify for many available grants. An additional limitation was the restriction concerning residence permits for scholars from non-EU countries. Research profile


SAR Sections are groups of higher education institutions and associations, that are members of the SAR network, nationally or regionally focused and organized specifically to coordinate participation in SAR activities. Unless otherwise indicated, the views represented by a SAR section, its members, or its affiliates reflect those of the originating author or section, and do not necessarily represent the views of SAR, other SAR sections, individual members, affiliates, board, staff, or sponsors. The use of the SAR name, logo, or other identifying material is for the sole purpose of identifying the relationship of the section, its members, or its affiliates with SAR, subject to approval of such use by the SAR board, as provided in the SAR bylaws