Date posted: March 23, 2015
MEHMET ŞAHİN/ ZİYA İPEK / ADANA
In yet another government-backed operation targeting the Gülen movement (Hizmet movement), four tax inspectors from the Finance Ministry and a number of police officers conducted a raid on Saturday at a private school affiliated with the movement in the southern province of Adana, leading to protests from parents of the school’s students.
Çukurova Burç College, one of Adana’s most successful high schools, was raided and searched by four auditors and some 40 police officers early on Saturday over alleged tax violations by school administrators. The inspections were performed while about 800 students were in class.
School administrators and parents of the students reacted harshly to the inspection, which they say were performed in an unlawful manner reminiscent of Turkey’s old state-of-emergency periods.
Burç Schools General Manager Sultan Sözeri criticized the presence of the police officers accompanying the inspectors, saying that auditors can carry out inspections at the school whenever they want. Sözeri said the raid aimed to create a negative image of the school. “I know that parents who see this scene will be more willing to send us their children,” he said.
The school is one of the most prestigious and successful schools operating in Adana. The province’s most successful student — who received the highest score on this year’s Transition to Higher Education Examination (YGS) exam, the first round of the university entrance process — came from the private Çukurova Burç College.
Stating that the school had been inspected by the Finance Ministry just one month before, Sözeri said the search and the raid were illegal. Sözeri also underlined that the school is known in Adana for its success.
The school’s lawyer, Ruhi Hallaçoğlu, also lashed out at the unlawful nature of the raid, saying: “There is no other example of such a raid performed with 40 police officers in a school — either in Turkey or the world — during hours when students were in class.”
Hallaçoğlu also said the police began to search the school without showing identification, adding that the raid was conducted based on a photocopy of a court order.
Parents also reacted to the raid, rushing to the school when they were informed of the incident.
One parent, Süleyman Kıvrak, told Today’s Zaman that the raid was unlawful. “The fact that the raid was performed while the students were still in classrooms is very saddening. We send our children to school to learn. Can you imagine how the students will be psychologically affected due to this raid? As parents we will seek all kinds of legal redress on this issue,” Kıvrak said.
Another parent, Ali Erdoğan, defined the raid as a “disgrace,” adding: “I am trying to raise children who will be valuable to their country in the future. However, someone is trying to prevent me from doing this.”
Kürşat Ekşi, another parent, told Today’s Zaman that his daughter is nervous and has been crying constantly since the raid. “We are sending our children to school in order to raise children who will be valuable to their motherland and their nation. … There are many schools where students use drugs. They [the police] should go and raid them instead of this school,” Ekşi said.
Saying that his children have been attending Çukurova Burç College for four years, Yunus Mecidiye said: “Our children are growing by learning their national and spiritual values at this school. We cannot understand why the raid took place. The police displayed informal behavior during the raid. … [The students] are now psychologically depressed due to the raid. It is also meaningful that this raid was performed just after the results of the YGS, in which 500,000 students [across the country] failed to even receive a passing grade of 180.”
In an apparent reaction to the raid, a total of 84 new students were registered at the private school for the coming 2015-16 academic year. One of the parents who registered his child at the school for the next academic year, Yasin Türkoğlu, told Today’s Zaman that he was planning to register his child at the school in August or September, but he applied to register immediately upon learning about the raid.
Turkish-Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen and the movement inspired by him have been direct targets of the government and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan ever since a corruption probe implicating some senior members of the government became public on Dec. 17, 2013. Erdoğan, who refers to Hizmet as the “parallel state” or “structure,” accuses the movement of being behind the corruption investigations.
The government, led by Erdoğan at the time, took action to ensure the closure of schools opened by Gülen’s followers around the world. Gülen-inspired institutions and schools in Turkey, such as Çukurova Burç College, are also under intense pressure from the government.
In May of last year, then-Prime Minister Erdoğan publicly advised supporters of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) not to send their children to schools inspired by Gülen. “We will not even give water to them [members of Gülen movement],” he vowed.
He also ordered officials at AK Party-run municipalities to seize land and buildings belonging to the Gülen movement by any means.
The raid is not the first time a Hizmet-inspired school was targeted by the government. A series of decisions rezoned land from private to public use.
In September of last year, the Antalya Metropolitan Municipality changed the zoning plans of local schools inspired by the Hizmet movement in compliance with a call made by Erdoğan in June.
Complying with Erdoğan’s call, the Antalya Metropolitan Municipality, which is run by the AK Party, decided to change the status of land in the Uluç neighborhood from “private educational facility” to “secondary school area.” The property belongs to the Hizmet-inspired group Toros Educational Institutions, which has yet to build any kind of educational facility on the land.
The municipal council also approved the zoning plan change to land belonging to the private Toros Primary and Secondary School in the Muratpaşa Meydan Kavağı neighborhood. The zoning plan of the school was changed to an “official school area.”
Toros Educational Institutions objected to the municipality’s plans to change the zoning of the land in Uluç, saying that the municipal council’s decision is groundless and unlawful.
In July of last year, the Bolu Municipality closed two schools belonging to businessmen associated with the Hizmet movement. The municipality hung a sign in front of the schools claiming that the buildings were not licensed and that the buildings did not conform to municipality regulations. In August, the same municipality constructed a road inside the courtyard of Fatih Koleji, which is also inspired by the movement, despite the fact that the school is surrounded by empty plots of land and that there are no residential areas around the school.
The closure of two Hizmet-inspired schools in Bolu followed similar moves in other parts of Turkey. In early June, the İstanbul Metropolitan Municipality stopped the construction of an education complex on privately owned land on the pretext that the land would be used as a green area and meeting point in the event of an earthquake.
The municipality, however, failed to obtain the required approval from other authorities in the province to halt the construction of the education complex. They said the complex belonged to Fetih Educational Operations (Fetih Eğitim İşletmeleri), which has close ties to the Hizmet movement.
In July, the municipality removed an advertisement in İstanbul’s Mecidiyeköy neighborhood for the Fem prep school, which helps students prepare for university entrance exams. The municipality claimed that the school had violated the municipality’s advertising regulations.
The school, however, said the municipality had approved the advertisement, for which all taxes had already been paid. It also said the real reason behind the municipality’s decision was that Fem is inspired by the Hizmet movement. The school filed a complaint against the municipality with the İstanbul Public Prosecutor’s Office, arguing that its billboard had been removed for no legitimate reason.
Source: Today's Zaman , March 22, 2015