Scholars at Risk is a New York based organization, comprised of a network of international institutions which are organized to support and defend principles of academic freedom of academic professionals around the globe. The organization’s network includes 400+ higher education institutions in 39 different countries.
Politics Keeping Scholars at Risk
Issues of academic freedom and political climate is inextricable. Although tenets of democracy suggest freedom of speech (and by proxy academia) is fundamental, some democracies do not follow suit. In the case of South Korea, the country attempted to ban the scholarship of Dr. Park Yuha, a professor who wrote of the nuanced lives of former Comfort Women during World War II. In the wake of war, the Japanese Imperial Army mobilized civilians to work towards the wartime effort, including the use of women from occupied territories to serve in brothels.
In communist and dictatorial regimes such as China, the country is accused of regularly jailing scholars and academics who follow what the country is seen to be as “anti-government” subjects. In this case, the simultaneous abuse of academic and religious freedom works in tandem. The PRC is accused of illegally detaining Uyghur scholars and clergy and holding them in “re-education camps.” The group Scholars at Risk recently called for the unconditional release of Rahile Dawut, a professor of Uyghur studies at Xinjiang University.
Other countries accused of violating the academic freedom of professors is Turkey, which has recently experienced an uptick in repression of rights of its citizens. In the wake of an attempted coup in 2016, reports detail the dismissal of more than 7,000 educators at higher education institutions in the country. In addition, emergency decrees from the government have resulted in the expulsion of over 300 students from attending university.
The organization advocates for scholars who are at risk of detention for expressing sentiment which are perceived as dangerous or anti-government. In addition, they assist scholars by providing them with temporary positions at member institutions, in-country services to threatened scholars and families, and referrals for host campuses. In the instances that scholars are unable to safely return to their home countries, the organization also offers follow-up placements through their network. Additional benefits of the organization include opportunities for staff and students, advanced reporting, advocacy, research and training opportunities.