Updated: May 1, 2019
23 Turkish academics who were allegedly using ByLock, a text messaging application, were detained last week as part of a witch-hunt targeting 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 the 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 means of a recent decree issued under the state of emergency that was declared on July 20.
The war against academics, however, started long before the attempted coup. On January 10 of this year, a group of scholars named the Academics for Peace signed an open letter asking the Turkish government to end its violence in the Kurdish provinces. The next day, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan accused the signatories of treason and called for their punishment. The Turkish judiciary system initiated public prosecutions under Turkish antiterror 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, both to which Turkey is 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 freedom of scholars and academics.
We call on the United Nations General Assembly and member governments to put pressure on the Turkish government and to express concern over the actions taken against universities and higher education establishments.