June 30, 2016

İpek University becomes latest private entity seized by government

An Ankara court appointed a temporary trustee to the Koza İpek Foundation, which is the founder of İpek University, in what is the latest in a series of government takeovers as part of the ongoing crackdown on the Gülen movement.

According to a statement issued by the İpek University, Ankara 3rd Court of First Instance ordered that a trustee be appointed to the foundation. The statement highlighted that the current Turkish Constitution and the legislation do not allow trustees to be appointed to universities. Despite the appointment of a trustee to the foundation, the university should be able to maintain its independence in terms of science and management, the statement noted.

Apart from the İpek University, the foundation is in charge of 12 entities, including three students’ dormitories, two middle schools, a mosque, a primary school, a cultural center.

A total of 2,000 trustees were reportedly appointed to hundreds of private entities in Turkey over the past six months, in what is considered an alarming issue regarding increasing government control across the country.

The Gülen movement is a grassroots social initiative inspired by Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen and carries out charitable activities all around the world, including education, distributing humanitarian aid and providing drinking water especially in African countries.

Erdoğan has referred to the movement as “FETÖ” and also coined the term “parallel state” to refer to people believed to be inspired by the ideas of Gülen, especially those within the state bureaucracy, after a corruption investigation implicating himself, members of his family and senior Justice and Development Party (AK Party) figures erupted on Dec. 17, 2013.

Erdoğan accused the Gülen movement of plotting to overthrow his government and said that sympathizers of the movement within the police department had fabricated the graft scandal. Since then, hundreds of police officers have been detained and some arrested for alleged illegal activity in the course of the corruption investigation. Erdoğan said he would carry out a “witch hunt” against anyone with links to the movement. The Gülen movement strongly rejects the allegations brought against it.

Thousands of prosecutors, judges and police chiefs were reassigned, dismissed or imprisoned either for taking part in the corruption investigation or based on allegations of having links to the movement. Also there have been many police operations carried out targeting shopkeepers, teachers, members of the judiciary, journalists and police officers who are accused of being affiliated with the Gülen movement, also known as the Hizmet movement.

The Gülen movement strongly rejects the allegations brought against it.

Published on Turkish Minute, 30 June 2016, Thursday