8 detained in police raids on İzmir schools as Erdoğan’s witch hunt continues

The private Yumurcak Dünyası Daycare Center was raided by the police as part of AK Party government-orchestrated operations. (Photo: Cihan)
The private Yumurcak Dünyası Daycare Center was raided by the police as part of AK Party government-orchestrated operations. (Photo: Cihan)

Date posted: August 19, 2015

Eight people were detained on charges of forging documents in police raids on 30 private schools established by volunteers from the faith-based Gülen movement early on Tuesday in İzmir, as part of a Justice and Development Party (AK Party government-orchestrated operation targeting the movement.

This is the latest in a number of raids on successful schools and prep schools run by Gülen movement volunteers. The raids have led to outrage on social media, with users likening the government’s actions to those of Boko Haram, a terrorist organization that has targeted schools offering a “Western” education in Nigeria.

Schools raided by officers from the İzmir Police Department’s Financial Crimes Unit included the Gaziemir, Karşıyaka, Karabağlar, Kemalpaşa and Menemen branches of Yamanlar educational Institutions, as well as the Gonca daycare center in the district of Buca. Among those detained were principals and executive managers of companies linked with the schools, in an investigation carried out by public prosecutor Okan Bato.

In 2014, the private Yamanlar schools won a total of 18 medals — three gold, eight silver and seven bronze — in the 22nd National Science Olympiad and the 19th National Mathematics Olympiad for primary and secondary schools.

In addition, six students from the schools got full marks on the 2015 Undergraduate Placement Examination (LYS), and five others were among the top 10 highest-ranking students of this year’s Transition to Higher Education Examination (YGS). Among these students were Murat Kaya, who came first in the Turkish and Mathematics (TM) 1, 2 and 3 categories and Emre Kızıltuğ, who came first in the Language 1 and 2 categories of the LYS. Melih Demir was the second-top scorer on this year’s YGS.

A number of members of opposition parties spoke to the Cihan news agency and criticized the police raids. Nationalist Movement Party (MHP İzmir deputy Murat Koç accused the government of negligence, arguing that it is shameful to use police force to raid schools while terrorist attacks take place, adding: “Everyone needs to act in the best interests of the country.”

Former Culture and Tourism Minister Ertuğrul Günay reiterated this sentiment, stating, “While Turkey has lots of problems, including corruption, terrorism and other issues of security, carrying out raids on private and prep schools doesn’t conform to wisdom or ethics.”

MHP deputy Aslan Savaşan also criticized the use of police resources, particularly at this time, remarking: “It’s not right to carry out raids on schools like Yamanlar, which have become widely respected. How democratic is it to vindictively carry out raids on educational institutions, while in southeastern Anatolia, and in some parts of eastern Anatolia, a terrorist organization declares so-called autonomy?”

Aytun Çınay, a deputy from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP highlighted possible motivations for the raids, saying: “I’d like to draw your attention to the timing of the police raids. Terrorist activity by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party [PKKs at a peak, many people have been martyred and the election process will probably begin again. These raids must be caused by the palace’s need to change the national agenda.”

Another CHP deputy, Özcan Purçu, stated that the current government has dealt the single biggest blow to education in the history of the republic.

Former MHP deputy Lütfü Türkkan criticized the raids on social media. “Carry out raids not in schools but in places where PKK terrorist activities are planned, so that our sons will not be martyred,” Türkkan tweeted on Tuesday.

Resul Tunçkır, a lawyer representing the Karabağlar branch of the Yamanlar primary and secondary schools, mentioned that the raid on the school began around 6:30 a.m. and stated: “Upon hearing about [other recent] police raids on schools across Turkey, we expected to be raided. We have been faced with constant administrative inspections, and inspectors asked that an official from the Finance Ministry seize some documents. They can take any document they want. It’s no problem for us.”

Tunçkır thanked the judge that issued the search warrant for the school, saying that the search has proven that the school is not a shelter for terrorists. He added: “Police also took video footage inside the school. I request that they share it with the public, and let everyone be aware that we are not educating terrorists. This institution was established in 1982. Here, we are educating students to be ethical and loyal to their country and nation.”

Other private schools, including Fatih Colleges, Samanyolu Colleges and Atlantik Secondary Schools, which are sympathetic to the Gülen movement — a faith-based social initiative inspired by Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen — have also been targeted by the AK Party government after a major graft investigation that implicated President RecRecep Tayyip Erdoğand other top AK Party figures was made public on Dec. 17, 2013.

Then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan accused the Gülen movement of plotting to overthrow his government. In May 2014, Erdoğan publicly advised AK Party supporters not to send their children to schools affiliated with the movement, vowing, “We will not even give water [to the movement’s members].” He has also said he would carry out a “witch hunt” against anyone with any link to the movement. Erdoğan has also ordered officials in AK Party-run municipalities to seize land and buildings belonging to the Gülen movement by any means necessary. The movement strongly rejects the allegations and no indictment has been brought against it.

Source: Today's Zaman , August 18, 2015

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