The advocacy and scholars’ protection organization Scholars at Risk sent a letter to Turkish government officials Thursday and issued a public appeal for letters on its website expressing its grave concern “about the continuation of sweeping actions against Turkey’s higher education sector, including prolonged detentions, prosecutions, dismissals and travel restrictions affecting thousands of higher education professionals.”
The letters from SAR are timed to coincide with the one-year anniversary of a failed coup attempt in Turkey, after which the government initiated widespread firings and detentions of individuals it alleged had links to Fethullah Gülen, the Islamic cleric in exile it accuses of being behind the coup attempt (allegations Gülen has denied). SAR reports that 6,495 academics and administrators have been dismissed from their positions by emergency decree and are barred from leaving Turkey or obtaining other public-sector work in the country. The group also says it has “reports of at least 1,035 detentions or arrest warrants issued for higher education personnel, with 776 personnel and students having been physically detained, and at least 393 having been formally subjected to criminal charges since January 2016. SAR has verified only 118 releases to date.”
“The scale and speed of these actions do not suggest an evidence-based response to the violent coup attempt of July 15, 2016, but rather a broad campaign against intellectuals and intellectual expression, in violation of Turkey’s international and domestic legal obligations to protect institutional autonomy and academic freedom, including under Turkey’s constitution,” SAR says.
The embassy of Turkey in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday afternoon.