February 24, 2016

2 FEM prep schools closed on orders from Education Ministry

Acting on orders from the Ministry of Education, police officers from the Elazığ Municipality locked the doors of two FEM preparation schools in the eastern province of Elazığ early on Wednesday as part of a campaign against the faith-based Gülen movement.

According to the Cihan news agency, municipal police officers ordered staff to leave the two FEM schools and locked their doors after being ordered to evict them by the Elazığ Provincial Directorate for National Education. Cihan reported that Atilla Kavuran, a lawyer representing the schools, said that they have filed a complaint against the Ministry of Education to demand a stay of execution.

A bill launched by the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government that banned privately owned university preparatory schools, known in Turkish as “dershanes,” was passed by Parliament on March 7, 2014 and signed into law by then-President Abdullah Gül five days later. Under this law, all prep schools were to be shut by Sept. 1 of 2015. The main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) later challenged the law, saying it was a blow to the right to free enterprise. The CHP filed an appeal with the Constitutional Court to annul the law in 2014.

In July 2015, the Constitutional Court announced its long-awaited decision. It annulled the controversial law in a five-to-12 majority vote on the grounds that it represented a violation of constitutional articles related to the right to education and freedom of labor. In September 2015, the Council of State annulled a circular sent to every governor's office by the Ministry of Education that demanded all operating university preparation schools to be closed and said that the ministry would take legal action against those currently in operation. Despite the court decisions, the Ministry of Education and provincial governor's offices continue to order closure of prep schools locally.

The law ordering the closure of dershanes was widely seen as part of the AK Party's campaign against the Gülen movement, also known as the Hizmet movement, a civil society initiative inspired by Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen that focuses on education and interfaith dialogue. The Gülen movement began to be targeted by the AK Party following the eruption of a corruption scandal in December 2013 in which senior government members were implicated. Then-Prime Minister and current President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan accused the movement of masterminding the probe to topple the government and has since targeted those who are inspired by Gülen's ideas.

Police officers, inspectors raid private schools in Van

Police accompanied by inspectors from several government bodies raided schools inspired by the Gülen movement in the eastern province of Van early on Wednesday as part of a government-led operation targeting the movement.

Police officers raided the Private Serhat Primary and Secondary Schools in the Erciş district of Van at around 9.30 a.m. accompanied by inspectors from government institutions including the Ministry of Education, the Social Security Institution (SGK) and the Ministry of Environment and Urban Planning. The auditors carried out inspections in the raided schools for four hours and police officers seized hard disks from computers and CCTV footage.

In a related development, a school dormitory in Sakarya's Serdivan district was closed on the order of the Sakarya Governor's Office on Wednesday. The dormitory administration and the lawyer representing it asked for the closure to be postponed so that the 102 students living there could pack their belongings. However, their demand was rejected and the dormitory was immediately closed by municipal officers accompanied by riot police.

Published on Today's Zaman, 24 February 2016, Wednesday