A letter from a prominent academic held without trial in a Turkish prison, passed to University World News in a week when 73 more academics have been detained, raises questions about whether academics are being rounded up as part of a legitimate investigation into real threats to the state or to clamp down on dissenting voices.
The threats to academics in Turkey are part of a wider European problem of a growing illiberalism that we must all confront. Academic freedom is an ongoing process that must be constantly fought for.
At the start of his first lecture with a group of new students a prominent University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer always used to say: “I know there are spies among you sent to record what I say in my lectures – go ahead, I don’t care.” But he was an exception and today there remain many reasons for academics to fear criticising the government.
United Arab Emirates authorities have violated basic rights and academic freedom in their prosecution of the Emirati academic Dr Nasser bin Ghaith, a coalition of nine human rights organisations said on 13 October.
Some universities are attempting to insert new clauses into their employment contracts that aim to limit academics’ ability to speak freely in public debate.
A leading historian of Russia's little known wartime collaboration with Nazi Germany is facing calls for a criminal investigation after defending his PhD thesis on a Red Army general who turned traitor against Soviet leader Joseph Stalin and led a small Russian force against the Soviet side in the latter stages of the war.
Academics are being threatened and harassed for criticising the Thai regime and the West is turning a blind eye.
This year has seen an unprecedented level of protests from the Middle East Studies Association on academic freedom in the Middle East, with attacks in Turkey representing the broadest targeted assault against academics the association has seen. Campaigners have been aided by an explosion in information about violations on digital platforms.
The threat to strip a Holocaust expert of a national honour is a direct attack on academic freedom as Poland’s right-wing government seeks to promote a ‘patriotic’ version of the past.
While the European Union and the United States have turned a blind eye to the Turkish government’s brutal clampdown in Kurdish regions, Turkish academics who have spoken out about the regime’s increasingly dictatorial policies have faced punishment and even imprisonment.
The murder of my friend Giulio Regeni in Cairo is a direct challenge to the academic freedom that is a pillar of our higher education system. He is only one of many scholars to find themselves in grave danger. As a scholarly community and as a society, we have a duty to strike to protect them.
An ideological crackdown in China’s universities, promoting Communist Party allegiance and slamming any adherence to ‘Western values’, accompanied by a heightened suppression of freedom of speech, has fuelled concerns about the future of higher education, academic freedom and liberal academics in the country.
In Iran, another scientist has died in a bomb attack strongly resembling earlier assassinations of those involved in the country's controversial nuclear programme. In Sudan, peaceful student protests across the country have been violently suppressed by security forces. Academics and students at Israel's Tel Aviv University have condemned the institution's security services for acting like a "secret police on campus" in pressuring lecturers to help them spy on students. And in Sri Lanka, thousands of students protesting a range of grievances have been evicted from their campus following a court order.
In Uzbekistan, a female Uzbek student on vacation from studies in Germany has committed suicide after four days of police interrogation. In Turkey, 22 of 28 leftist youths detained for six months over accusations of terrorist links have been released after a court rejected the accusations against them. Professor Nasser bin Gaith of Abu Dhabi's Sorbonne University, along with four others detained for eight months for signing an online pro-reform petition, has been freed after a presidential pardon. In Iran, an imprisoned rights activist has been denied leave to write a graduate admissions test. And in Tunisia, Islamic fundamentalist groups have disrupted university classes and exams and have targeted female professors.
In Turkey, 57 members of the Academy of Sciences have resigned in protest against a government decree that will end the academy's autonomy. In Bahrain, university students are under attack by the authorities, with hundreds being tried for pro-democracy activities and six recently receiving 15-year sentences and hefty fines in a court case widely criticised as unfair. Papuan students in Indonesia are being targeted by the authorities for what human rights groups describe as generalised intimidation and threats. And in Azerbhaijan, a top scientist has been demoted for questioning the legality of the detention of youth activist Baxtiyar Haciyev, amid moves against the Azerbaijani intelligentsia.
In Turkey, in an ongoing operation against Kurdish political parties, two academics have been arrested and charged under the Anti Terror Law, but there are concerns about fair trial standards. In the Philippines, educators and activists fear for their lives after the brutal killing of a university vice-president and given escalating - seemingly politically motivated - attacks and murders. In Bahrain, concerns have been expressed about the fairness of the trial of a professor arrested and suspended from his position, amid a wider crackdown on academic freedoms. In Laos rights groups are calling for the release of political prisoners, including four student leaders who remain incarcerated 12 years after protests in the country were crushed. And a US climate change scientist has hailed as a victory for academic freedom and science a court ruling to deny access by a pro-industry think-tank to his private emails.
The attack on the Central European University marks a critical moment for the European Union. Silence implies weakness. It is time for Bologna to break with the convention of not making announcements between political meetings and seize the opportunity to defend academic freedom.
In Iran, a student activist has been lashed 74 times, just hours before his release from prison after serving a one-year sentence for insulting the president. A Russian historian specialising in the lives of ethnic Germans during the Soviet Union era has gone on trial behind closed doors on charges of illegally revealing personal data. In the UAE, a Sorbonne Abu Dhabi University lecturer has being detained since April on charges of insulting officials, and rights groups have urged the university to support him. A former Cyprus University rector has accused the Famagusta municipality of infringing his right to free expression by cancelling a lecture on the 11 July naval base blast. In India, a row has erupted following the University of Delhi's decision to exclude a controversial essay from its history syllabus, and in Malaysia students have protested against the suspension of a law lecturer for criticising the Sultan of Selangor.
In Syria, a nuclear physicist who was shot in the head has become the latest victim of a series of murders targeting scientists in the city of Homs. Iranian Omid Kokabee, the Texas University doctoral student detained in Tehran's Evin prison on espionage charges, went on trial last week. And in China, the authorities have cancelled the classes of a prominent Uyghur professor at the Beijing Minorities University, and 20 Uyghur professors have been dismissed from a teaching college in the northwestern region of Xianjiang for failing to be fluent in Mandarin.
In Chad two students detained for being in possession of pro-reform pamphlets are preparing to go on trial. In Iran prominent jailed student activist Majid Tavakoli has been permanently banned from studying at any university, and a doctoral student who campaigned for the opposition candidate in the 2009 elections was detained and subjected to 50 lashes. International Turkmen students have been prevented by their country's migration officials from returning to universities in neighbouring Tajikistan and are in danger of being expelled. And in Nigeria, students have accused the authorities of failing to guarantee their safety after extremist Islamic group Boko Haram threatened bomb attacks on universities.
Chinese constitutional scholar and activist Yao Lifa has been freed but is suffering from multiple injuries after spending almost a month in detention. In Iran, religious scholar Ahmad Ghabel is suffering declining health in Vakilabad prison, where he is serving a sentence for insulting the country's supreme leader. Ashkan Zahabian, a student activist jailed in northern Iran, has started a hunger strike to protest against the conditions of his detention and confusion around his case. The family of Abdolreza Soudbakhsh, a professor at Tehran University and medical doctor who was murdered by unidentified men in September 2010, have claimed that his killing was linked to his work with rape and torture victims.
In Iran former university chancellor Mohammad Maleki, charged with being an "enemy of God", has accused the court hearing his case of being illegal, and theological scholar Ahmad Ghabel has been re-incarcerated to serve a 20-month sentence. In Tajikistan, authorities have opened criminal cases against 22 students who have returned from abroad, apparently to discourage them from contacting extremist Islamist groups. US academics who wrote a book on China's Xinjiang region and were banned by the authorities from entering China, have expressed shock at lack of support from their universities. And in Burkina Faso, three police officers have been jailed for their involvement in the death of a student.
In Iran, jailed pro-democracy student activist Abdollah Momeni has been denied medical leave despite serious and worsening health problems. An Iranian postgraduate student at a US university, imprisoned for five months in Tehran for allegedly plotting conspiracy, has asked for a chance to defend himself in a fair trial. In Saudi Arabia prominent scholar Yusuf al-Ahmad has been arrested for criticising the authorities' lack of judicial process for security detainees. Malaysian students have rallied in 25 cities around the world to support free and fair elections in the country, and in Zimbabwe charges of treason against six activists have been downgraded to inciting public violence.
A Guinean student in The Gambia has been released after more than two months in prison or under house arrest, following accusations that he had been planning an uprising. In the UK an Oxford academic has been allowed, under freedom of information laws, to read formerly secret data on climate change. Ireland's Royal College of Surgeons has come under fire for urging staff and students at its medical school in Bahrain not to become involved in politics and for failing to take a stand against the repression of doctors. And in Malaysia, a South Korean student has been arrested after attending a pro-democracy protest.
An Iranian student activist and prisoner of conscience remains in solitary confinement after 37 days in prison with interrogation completed. Charges against a Colombian academic arrested two yeas ago, accused of links with left-wing guerrillas, have been dropped, and he has been released. A student pilot in Iran has been jailed for a year over Facebook activities, including interviews with international media and publicising political activity. A constitutional law scholar in China has gone missing, believed detained in relation to high numbers of independent candidates running in local elections.