April 17, 2015

Pro-gov’t daily’s report on KPSS dismissed as totally fabricated

A report run by a pro-government daily that alleged an academic had leaked questions to state-run exams, in what appears to be a government-sponsored smear campaign against a powerful civic group, has turned out to be completely fabricated.

Yeni Akit, an Islamist daily that is closely associated with the government, claimed in a report published on Monday that an academic named Safiye Sena İz Açıkgöz had leaked questions on several state-administered tests while she was working at the Student Selection and Placement Center (ÖSYM). Similar reports were published later in other pro-government dailies.

Yüksel Çora, the attorney for Açıkgöz, issued a written statement dismissing claims that were leveled against his client in Yeni Akit. He said Açıkgöz has never worked at the ÖSYM in any position during her career. He also denied that his client has been a fugitive, which was mentioned in the report.

The fabricated story maintained that Açıkgöz is a suspect in the investigation into alleged cheating in the 2010 State Personnel Examination (KPSS), which was restarted recently. The investigators were claimed to have found question sets for three exams in two password-protected folders on her computer. She was alleged to have fled the country as well.

Açıkgöz said the story is totally fabricated and appears to be part of a government campaign around the alleged cheating scandal surrounding the 2010 KPSS, which was full of discrepancies. He also said that while his client was mentioned as a graduate of a math department, she was claimed to have drafted sets of questions on literature and social science. “That is a contradiction in itself which was included in the report,” he said.

Çora also questioned how his client could have leaked the questions on her husband's family name in 2010 when she got married in 2011, which led her to drop her maiden name.

“That showed those who fabricated this report did not even notice huge contradictions among purported facts mentioned in the story,” he said.

It turned out that the attorney's statement was also confirmed by the ÖSYM on April 13, 2015. In a statement to the state-run Anadolu news agency, the ÖSYM said no one named Safiye Sena İz Açıkgöz had ever worked for the ÖSYM. It stated, however, that another person identified as Safiye Açıkgöz has been working for the ÖSYM since Oct. 22, 1999. She took a leave of absence without pay on Aug. 25, 2014, to accompany her husband, who was assigned to a position overseas.

The statement said an internal investigation was launched into the claims.

The investigation into these claims seemed to go nowhere for five years, and only one government official has resigned over the allegations. However, the government recently renewed its focus on the allegations of cheating as part of its smear campaign against the Gülen movement, a civic group popularly known as the Hizmet movement and inspired by Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, who promotes science education and interfaith dialogue between Islam and other major religions.

Members of the ruling government's circle, without showing concrete evidence, claim that Gülen sympathizers who held positions in the state bureaucracy had leaked the booklets to other sympathizers in order to allow them access to state positions. Gülen's lawyers and other representatives of Hizmet have rejected these and all other accusations.

In the meantime, it was recently revealed that Ali Demir, the former president of the ÖSYM, which administers the exam, had ordered the destruction of the booklets, which would have served as key evidence in an investigation.

In his deposition Demir had made to the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor's Office, the booklets were destroyed by the ÖSYM after approval by the Higher Education Board (YÖK) on March 18, 2011. Demir had claimed that the ÖSYM did not have enough room in its archives for the booklets.

However, Ankara Public Prosecutor Yücel Erkman revealed in a recent report on the 2010 KPSS investigation that 140 test booklets were examined by experts. According to the analysis, 26 out of the 140 booklets elicited a “very strong opinion” that cheating had taken place, 50 elicited a “strong opinion” and 49 showed slight evidence of having been misused.

An investigation was initially opened in 2010 after more than 3,227 people answered most or all of the questions on the KPSS exam correctly, leading to claims that some of the candidates had either cheated during the exam or obtained the questions beforehand. The 2010 investigation revealed that some of the most successful candidates were either friends living in the same house or married to each other. Claims also emerged that copies of the KPSS questions had been obtained before the exam and had been shared among thousands of candidates.

Published on Today's Zaman, 17 April 2015, Friday