Turkey: is Freedom of Expression endangered in universities?

Tomorrow, on 7 January 2022, 14 students will stand trial at the 22nd Criminal Court of First Instance in Istanbul. Their crime? Defending Freedom of Expression and denouncing the appointment of a rector controlled by the government.

Since 2 January 2021, students of Boğaziçi University in Istanbul have been protesting a Presidential decree which appointed Melih Bulu, an academic and close partisan/ally of the ruling AKP party, as rector of one of Istanbul’s leading universities. This move is seen as an attack on the independence of the university and has been denounced by civil society – including EuroMed Rights.

While Melih Bulu was replaced on 20 August 2021 by another political appointee, Naci Inci, student protests continued. Thousands of them were subject to police violence and judicial control, held under house arrest or arbitrarily detained.

On 7 January 2022, 14 students will stand trial in Istanbul under the charge of “unarmed attendance to unlawful meetings and demonstrations and refusal to disperse by oneself despite warnings”.

EuroMed Rights, Human Rights Association (İnsan Hakları Derneği, İHD), and Civic Space Studies Association (Sivil Alan Araştırmaları Derneği, CSSA) call for all charges to be dismissed and the detained students to be released. As a signatory of the European Convention on Human Rights, Turkey must respect the rights to Freedom of Expression of Boğaziçi University students as stated in its Article 10.


In the aftermath of the attempted coup d’état in 2016 and within the framework of the state of emergency put in place until the end of July 2018, the AKP government adopted a statutory decree (dated 29 October 2016) abolishing rector elections in universities. This move contributes to shrinking the space for civil society and dissident voices in the country, impacting human rights and fundamental freedoms  and  denounced by the Council of the European Union conclusions of December 2021 (Paragraph 34)

A courtesy translation of this press release in Turkish is available here.