August 27, 2014

İstanbul Municipality builds road through Fatih College courtyard

The İstanbul Metropolitan Municipality has decided to construct a road through the courtyard of the Hizmet-affiliated Fatih College, a private high school that has been in operation in İstanbul's Merter neighborhood for 20 years, Samanyoluhaber reported on Wednesday.

“The İstanbul Metropolitan Municipality wants to construct a road through the courtyard of our school, which has been operating for 20 years already,” Fatih College's Director Salim Kaplan was quoted as saying by Aktifhaber. Kaplan also said that he plans to wait, together with students and parents, in the courtyard of the college.

“No construction vehicles have come yet,” Kaplan said.

The Fatih College incident comes after the Bolu Municipality -- also controlled by the AK Party -- constructed a road through the courtyard of the city's Fatih College, despite the fact that the school is surrounded by empty plots of land and no residential area exists in its vicinity. Before that the Bolu Municipality closed down two schools belonging to businesspeople affiliated with the faith-based Hizmet movement in early July.

The closure of two Hizmet-affiliated schools in Bolu followed similar incidents across Turkey. In early June, the İstanbul Metropolitan Municipality stopped the construction of an education complex on privately owned land on the pretext that the land was to be designated a green area and gathering spot in the event of an earthquake. The municipality failed to obtain the required approval from other authorities in the province to halt the construction of the education complex. They said that the complex belongs to Fetih Eğitim İşletmeleri (Fetih Educational Operations), which has close ties to the Hizmet movement.

In the same month the İstanbul Metropolitan Municipality removed a sign advertising the Fem prep school in İstanbul's Mecidiyeköy district, which helps students prepare for university entrance exams. The municipality claimed that the school had violated the municipality's advertising regulations. The school, however, said the İstanbul Metropolitan Municipality had approved the advertisement, for which all the taxes had already been paid. It also said the real reason behind the İstanbul Metropolitan Municipality's decision is Fem's affiliation with the Hizmet movement. The school filed a complaint against the İstanbul Metropolitan Municipality with the İstanbul Prosecutor's Office, arguing that its advert had been removed for no apparent reason.

Municipal police teams also removed the advert for the Anafen prep school, which is in the same building as the Fem school. Signs belonging to other businesses were also removed. However, 117 other advertisements in Mecidiyeköy Square remain untouched.

Shortly afterwards, the Başakşehir Municipality in İstanbul ordered the removal of a billboard advertising the success of a college, which is affiliated with Hizmet, in the highly competitive Undergraduate Placement Examination (LYS).

All of these schools are close to the Hizmet movement, which is inspired by Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has accused the Hizmet movement of being behind a massive corruption investigation. He claims that the investigation was an attempt to overthrow his AK Party government, although the prime minister has not been able to produce any evidence to justify his claims.

Published on Today's Zaman, 27 August 2014, Wednesday