Turkey Crackdown Continues

July 21, 2016

The crackdown on Turkish academe following last week’s failed coup continued on Wednesday, when President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan declared a three-month state of emergency, a measure that will expand his powers to pursue suspected coup plotters.

Among the education-related developments reported Wednesday by Turkish and international media:

  • The Washington Post reported on a blanket ban on professional travel for Turkish academics.
  • The Hürriyet Daily News reported on the suspension of four university rectors, one of whom was detained, as well as the suspension of 95 academic staff at Istanbul University.
  • At the K-12 level, the Associated Press reported that the education ministry is closing 626 private schools “and other establishments” that the agency said are linked to Fethullah Gülen, a Muslim cleric whom Turkish officials accuse of orchestrating the attempted coup (Gülen denies any involvement).

These developments followed large-scale purges in the education sector on Tuesday, when the Council of Higher Education demanded the resignation of 1,577 university deans. In addition, more than 15,000 education ministry officials were suspended and 21,000 schoolteachers had their licenses revoked in what critics see as a piece of a vast effort to remake state institutions, including educational institutions, in the image of Erdoğan’s party.

The international arm of the state broadcaster, TRT World, reported late Wednesday that about 60,000 soldiers, police, judges, civil servants and teachers have been suspended or detained or are under investigation as Erdoğan has (in the broadcaster’s characterization) “vowed to clean the ‘virus’ responsible for the plot from all state institutions.”

A letter circulating among American academics, expected to be released Friday, calls on the Obama administration “to strongly criticize the Turkish government’s violation of human rights, academic freedom and the rule of law and to refuse to accept anything but a reversal of these authoritarian policies.”

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