April 21, 2015

Mufti office evicts educational center accompanied by police

Accompanied by police officers, officials from the mufti office in the Muratpaşa district of the southern province of Antalya met with the officials from Durmazlar Group Educational Center on Tuesday after having ordered the group's eviction from a building Durmazlar has the legal right to use until 2017.

In December of last year, officials from the Muratpaşa Mufti Office ordered the eviction of the Durmazlar Group Educational Center, although the protocol the center signed with the Religious Affairs Directorate, of which the mufti office is a subset, gives it the right to use the building until 2017. Officials from the office said they would use police force if the center's administrators failed to comply with the order.

However, hours after the eviction was ordered, the center's administrators obtained a stay of execution from a local court.

The mufti office recently issued a second eviction notice to the group, which is known for being close to the faith-based Gülen movement, popularly known as the Hizmet movement. The Durmazlar group did not object to the second order and decided to leave the premises.

Emptying the educational center building on Monday, Durmazlar group officials agreed to meet with officials from the Muratpaşa Mufti Office on Tuesday. However, Durmazlar group officials were surprised to see police officers in attendance.

Antalya-based Hamle Group Deputy Chairman Ali Dil, which operates the Durmazlar Group Educational Center, said they provide educational support and lessons on the Quran to more than 16,000 poor students. Dil said that bringing police to a meeting to hand over the premises, which was already emptied, was an attempt to intimidate people who support the Gülen movement.

While police were present for the meeting, the students' parents also attended in a show of solidarity with the center.

Educational institutions close to the Gülen movement, a movement inspired by Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, have been targeted by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) since a major corruption investigation went public in December 2013, implicating people close to the AK Party and Erdoğan. Erdoğan has accused the Gülen movement, especially its sympathizers in the police force and judiciary, of being behind the investigations. Then-Prime Minister Erdoğan claims the investigation was an attempt to overthrow his government, although he has not been able to produce any evidence to justify his claims.

Published on Today's Zaman, 21 April 2015, Tuesday