October 5, 2015

Police raids on Gülen-inspired schools in Eskişehir revealed to be unlawful

Raids by police and inspectors in July on private schools and university preparation schools in Eskişehir province that are sympathetic to the faith-based Gülen movement were revealed on Monday to be based on a law that was abolished in 2008.

On July 31, police and auditors from a total of eight institutions including the Finance Ministry, the Social Security Institution (SGK), the Ministry of Environment and Urban Planning and the Ministry of Agriculture raided a number of Fem prep schools and private Samanyolu Schools in Eskişehir. While some officers told the school authorities they did not know who had ordered the inspections, others said the raids had been ordered by the Eskişehir Governor's Office.

Soon after the raids, Selamet Şen, a lawyer representing the raided schools, sent a petition to the Eskişehir Governor's Office demanding to know what law or regulation the raids were based on. The governor's office answered the lawyer's question in an official written statement nearly two months later, saying that the raids were based on Subsection E of Article 10 of the Law on Provincial Administration, which was abolished in 2008.

Criticizing the unlawful basis of the raids, Şen told Today's Zaman on Sunday, “I'd like to speak to the [Eskişehir] governor. This subsection [used as the basis for the raids] was abolished in 2008. How can you then inspect educational institutions with around 30 auditors coming to schools in busses?”

Şen added: “Although they had previously been shut down, the Sivrihisar and Çifteler branches of the Fem prep schools were targeted by the police officers and inspectors. The Ministry of Education, the Eskişehir Governor's Office and Eskişehir Tax Office were aware of their closure. When the police officers and auditors went to inspect the prep schools, they were surprised to see that they were closed.”

A dozen police officers also carried out raids on two Gülen-inspired private schools and one “dershane,” as university preparation schools are known in Turkey, in the southeastern province of Siirt early on Sunday. Police impounded student attendance lists, teacher payrolls and lists approved by the governor's office as evidence.

Mahmut Nedim Toprak, a parent of a student at the school, told the Cihan news agency: “I have five children receiving their education in these schools. They have never been taught anything wrong. May God be pleased with these people [who run the school]. They don't harm anyone. They [government officials] are trying to make them look like an armed terrorist organization. Where are the weapons, then? Our government should be focusing on other things. The police shouldn't be occupied with issues like these.”

A number of private and prep schools that are inspired by Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen have been targeted by the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government after a major graft investigation that implicated President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and other top AK Party figures was made public on Dec. 17, 2013.

Then-Prime Minister Erdoğan accused the Gülen movement of plotting to overthrow his government. In May 2014, Erdoğan publicly advised AK Party supporters not to send their children to schools affiliated with the movement, vowing, “We will not even give water [to the movement's members].” He has also said he would carry out a “witch hunt” against anyone with any links to the movement. Erdoğan has also ordered officials in AK Party-run municipalities to seize land and buildings belonging to the Gülen movement by any means necessary. The movement strongly rejects the allegations and no indictment has been brought against it.

Published on Today's Zaman, 5 October 2015, Monday