Turkey Post-Coup Purge will effect education sector.
Wth more than 120,000 public workers suspended and nearly 40,000 people in prison, the aftermath of Turkey’s failed July 15 coup is being felt across every part of society, including its highest-ranked schools.
1,577 RECTORS WERE RESIGNED
The day after the coup attempt, the rectors of 1,577 universities — nearly every such institution in the country — were forced to resign. An estimated 200,000 students were left in limbo after the closure of 15 universities and 1,043 private schools reportedly linked to Fethullah Gulen, the cleric the Turkish government blames for the putsch. More than 6,000 academics at 107 universities have since been fired as well, many accused of links to Gulen’s movement or the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK.
“These last few months will have an impact on our society that will last for decades to come,” said Ozgur Bozdogan, the head of Egitim-Sen, one of the country’s largest teachers unions
At Istanbul’s Bogazici University, students and faculty members have been holding daily protests this week after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan used emergency powers to appoint a new rector, bypassing a decades-old practice that saw university staff members elect their boss from among their ranks.
“The old rector was trying to defend the democratic autonomous structure of the university,” said Ahmet, a senior studying economics, who asked that his full name not be used. Founded in 1863 by American philanthropists, Bogazici has long been considered one of the most liberal schools in the country. Police are not permitted to enter the campus, and student groups regularly host conferences on largely taboo subjects such as the Armenian genocide and the treatment of the country’s Kurdish minority.
MANY PROTESTS ARE EMERGED
At a protest this week on the street outside the campus gates, Ahmet noticed a police officer staring at him across the crowd of 300 hundred students and teachers with whom he was marching. “He walked towards me and the crowd split apart to make way for him, before I started running,” Ahmed said.
Police grabbed Ahmet, but moments later fellow students freed him. “We all wanted to make sure no one was detained, because now under the state of emergency you don’t know how long you will be in prison,” he said.
“The government wants to end our autonomy, they have always seen Bogazici as a kind of enemy,” Ahmet said. The newly appointed rector, Mehmed Ozkan, has pledged to protect the university’s “participatory, pluralistic and free tradition.” But students such as Ahmet fear space for criticizing the government will only shrink. Ozkan’s sister is a parliament member from the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP.
It’s not just university students who are being affected by the sweeping post-coup measures.
When primary and secondary students returned to school this year, they spent most of the first day watching videos about the “triumph of democracy” over the coup plotters, and speeches by Erdogan that equate the civilian counter-coup with historic Ottoman victories going back 1,000 years.
Meanwhile, authorities scrambled to find replacements for the nearly 30,000 teachers at the primary and secondary levels who had been suspended and another 30,000 who had been fired under emergency rule, accused of having ties to Gulen or the PKK.
“People fear this climate, because they cannot really protest against this process; everyone fears losing their jobs,” said Mustafa Turgut, a high school literature teacher in Istanbul. Turgut has no books to teach from, because the Ministry of Education has ordered a review of all textbooks for possible links to Gulen or the PKK.