23 Turkish academics who were allegedly using ByLock, a text messaging application, were detained last week as part of a witch-hunt targeting of the Gülen movement.
Turkish prosecutors claim that ByLock is the top communication tool among members of the Gülen movement, which the government accuses of masterminding a July 15 coup attempt. Critics, however, have blasted the government for detaining thousands simply for using a mobile application.
More than 5,070 academics have been dismissed by the government as part of a witch-hunt targeting the Gülen movement by means of a recent decree issued under the state of emergency declared on July. 20.
This war against academics started long before the attempted coup. On January 10 of this year, a group of scholars calling themselves Academics for Peace signed an open letter calling on the Turkish government to end its violence in the Kurdish provinces. The next day, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan accused the signatories and the organizers of treason and called for them to be punished. The Turkish judiciary system initiated public prosecutions under Turkish anti-terror laws, alleging defamation of the Turkish state and accusing signatories of spreading “terrorist organization propaganda.” Turkey’s Higher Education Council (YÖK) ordered university rectors to commence disciplinary investigations. Numerous suspensions, dismissals, and imprisonments followed.
Endangered Scholars Worldwide is deeply concerned about the detention of and professional retaliation against academics and human rights activists in Turkey in response to their exercise of the rights to academic freedom, free expression and free association, conduct that is expressly protected under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to both of which Turkey is a party. The ongoing tensions in Turkey have a profoundly destructive effect on academic freedom and represent a grave threat to higher education on a national scale.
We at Endangered Scholars Worldwide urge Turkish officials to honor their constitutional obligations to protect the institutional integrity of universities and the academic freedom of scholars and academics.
Endangered Scholars Worldwide calls on the United Nations General Assembly, and member governments, to put pressure on the Turkish government and express concern over the actions taken by Turkish officials against universities and higher education establishments in Turkey.