January 8, 2016

Ministry shuts down 3 prep schools despite top court’s ruling

The Ministry of Education canceled the business licenses of three prep schools in Eskişehir province with the authorization of the provincial governor on Thursday even though the Constitutional Court recently annulled a Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government bill that aimed to shut down prep schools in Turkey.

The prep schools were shut after a letter signed by Eskişehir Governor Güngör Azim Tuna demanding that the business licenses of three Anafen and Fem private university preparation schools be canceled was sent to the Ministry of Education.

Today's Zaman has learned that auditors from the Eskişehir Provincial Directorate for National Education carried out an inspection at the three prep schools a few days prior to their closure. The auditors prepared a report in which they said that the prep schools were continuing to operate and sent it to the governor's office.

Selamet Şen, a lawyer for the Fem prep schools, has filed a case at an administrative court and demanded that the order be annulled. Şen emphasized in the complaint that the order contradicts the latest rulings of the Constitutional Court and the Council of State. “There hasn't even been any disciplinary action taken against my client. The prep schools are not involved in any kind of illegalities that would require the cancelation of their business licenses,” Şen said.

The AK Party government bill that banned privately owned university preparatory schools 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 down by Sept. 1, 2015. The main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) filed an appeal with the Constitutional Court to annul the law last year.

On July 13, the Constitutional Court announced its long-awaited decision and annulled the controversial law in a five-to-12 majority vote on the grounds that the law represented a violation of constitutional articles related to the right to education and freedom of labor. On Sept. 18, 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, also known as “dershanes,” be closed and said that the ministry would take legal action against those currently in operation.

Prep schools are private institutions that help students prepare for standardized high school and college entrance exams. There has been concern that the law could block upward mobility in Turkish society and leave some 55,000 people jobless as a result of the closure of the schools.

‘Gov't cracking down on religious people instead of terrorists'

In a related development, former İzmir Mayor Burhan Özfatura has criticized the government for a police raid on five reading rooms that provide an education to children in need free of charge in İzmir, saying that the authorities are cracking down on religious people instead of terrorists.

Dozens of police officers from the İzmir Police Department's Financial Crimes Unit raided five reading rooms belonging to the Fidan Education Volunteers Foundation in İzmir on the order of İzmir Deputy Chief Public Prosecutor Okan Bato on Thursday and carried out a search.

Speaking to Today's Zaman on Friday, Özfatura strongly criticized the raid, branding it a revenge operation. “There's no law, reasoning or conscience left [in the country]. The government doesn't care about poor students. It has gone completely off the rails. Soldiers and police officers are killed [by terrorists] every single day; however, the government is still motivated by revenge. They aren't able to stop the terrorists and instead they crack down and take revenge on religious people.”

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has targeted the Hizmet movement -- also known as the Gülen movement because it is inspired by the ideas of Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen -- since a major graft probe implicating President 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. The movement strongly rejects the allegations.

Published on Today's Zaman, 8 January 2016, Friday