On December 8, 2017, Irfan Mukul, an assistant professor at the University of Sinop, was suspended from the university for visiting his student Semih Özakça.
In an interview with Bianet, Mukul stated that Semih is his student from the Faculty of Education. “I visited my student who is on hunger strike on Sunday. I told the investigators, too, is visiting my student a crime? It is not possible.”
Özakça, 28, and Nuriye Gülmen, 35, went on a hunger strike in March 2017 in the country's capital, Ankara, protesting the loss of their jobs in a crackdown on alleged coup participants that has led to the firing or suspension of more than 150,000 public sector workers. As publicity over the hunger strike grew, Turkish prosecutors accused the academics of being members of a terrorist organization, an accusation that has commonly leveled in Turkey since the coup attempt.
On November 5, 2017, a Turkish court ruled that Özakça, who has been on the hunger strike for over seven months, would be placed under house arrest for the duration of his trial.
Gulmen, on the other hand, was sentenced to six years and three months in jail for being a member of the militant leftist DHKP-C group. However, the court granted the emaciated professor a conditional release, and she was freed from a hospital where she was in custody on December 1.
Endangered Scholars Worldwide is deeply concerned about the harsh measures being taken against academics in Turkey in response to their exercising of the rights to academic freedom, free expression, and free association, conduct that is expressly protected under international human rights instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, both to which Turkey is party. The ongoing tensions in Turkey have a profoundly unsettling effect on academic freedom and represent a grave threat to higher education on a national scale.