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A draconian new regulation that paves the way for the arbitrary closure of private universities and allows the vindictive seizure of their properties has come into effect, deepening concerns over the deterioration of the rule of law in Turkey.
The regulation drafted by Turkeyand’s Higher Education Board (YandOK) — seen by many as a severe blow to academic freedom in Turkey, as well as to free enterprise — was published in the Official Gazette on Thursday. It gives YandOK the authority to close down private universities and”that have become a focal point for activities against the stateand’s indivisible integrity.and”
The regulation comes amid increasing concerns over growing restrictions on fundamental rights in Turkey.
Following a government-orchestrated decision on Oct. 26 by the Ankara 5th Penal Court of Peace, the management of Koza ipek Holdingand’s 22 companies — including critical TV stations Bugandun TV and Kanaltandurk and the Bugandun and Millet dailies — were taken over by trustees accompanied by police on Oct. 28 on charges of supporting the Gandulen movement. Koza ipek Holding also owns ipek University in Ankara.
The regulation poses a danger for private universities run by foundations that may be deemed critical of the government. These universities could lose their academic independence and be placed under the academic, administrative and financial supervision of YandOK trustees.
No court ruling has been issued against Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gandulen or the hundreds of other people including police officers, journalist, judges, businessmen and bureaucrats with alleged links to the Gandulen movement in the ongoing government-orchestrated investigations.
Investigations targeting the Gandulen movement, inspired by the Islamic scholar, have been criticized by many international organizations including Interpol, which has this year reportedly rejected a number of requests by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) to issue international warrants against people alleged to have links with the movement and who live abroad on the grounds that it has not been provided with evidence of any crimes.
Interpol also notified the AK Party government in August that it does not recognize the Gandulen movement as a criminal organization that — as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan claims — is attempting to topple the Turkish government.
The draft regulation, which was published by YandOK between Oct. 26 and Nov 3 to canvass opinion from teaching personnel, was later submitted for review to the Inter-university Board (anduAK). Despite changing a few clauses in the draft copy, YandOK was adamant in its insistence to keep a clause that allowed it to close down private universities at will.
The new regulation means that any university administrator that YandOK, and therefore the government, deems a threat will constitute the legal basis to have that university shut down. Also the regulation states that any university that does not continue its educational operations for a period of three years will be shut down indefinitely.
h2Former rector says presidency behind YandOK regulation to seize universitiesh2 Sedat Laandciner, the former rector of andcanakkale 18 Mart University (andcOMandu) and professor of international relations slammed the new regulation, noting that universities were under the control of the government even before the YandOK passed any regulation. and”Professors are having lawsuits piled up against them, or being fired from their jobs,and” Laandciner said. and”The observable faandcade is YandOK, but everyone knows that the palace is behind it,and” he said, referring to the presidential palace that has become synonymous with President Erdogan.
Laandciner was removed from his post as the rector of andcOMandu in April, and his successor Yanducel Acer reassigned Laandciner to a faculty in Biga, 100 kilometers from andcanakkale, as a form of punishment for criticizing the government.
h2Laandciner: YandOK now has power to close down universities entirelyh2 and”There can be no criticism coming from private universities anymore,and” he said. and”Unfortunately, after being given the power to harass universities, YandOK has now been given the power to close them down entirely.and”
University Faculty Association (andunivder) President Tahsin Yeiildere recently told Todayand’s Zaman that the regulation will remain as a and”sword of Damoclesand” over the heads of universities, rendering their predisposition of objectivity obsolete.
The regulation will mean that private universities, which are supposed to have autonomy on issues such as academic performance, administrative authority and economic issues, will be handed over to YandOK.
Union of Active Educators (Aktif Eiitim-Sen)hairman Osman Bahandce recently told Todayand’s Zaman that the draft regulation seeks to wipe out institutions owned by critical groups. He said the government is making unlawful changes to regulations to silence dissident voices and is using state institutions as a tool.
Underlining that YandOK is an institution that was created by a military junta regime in the 1980s, Union of Academic Personnel (andOGESEN)hairman Vahdet andOzkoandcak told Todayand’s Zaman last Sunday that the draft regulation is against the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).
According to andOzkoandcak, the draft regulation intends to take over private universities by appointing caretaker trustees to the board of trustees of certain universities. and”The ungainly structure of YandOK will be more complicated if the draft regulation is approved,and” andOzkoandcak said.
h2HDP co-founding deputy: YandOK regulation is banditryh2 Ertuirul Kandurkandcandu, one of the founding members of the pro-Kurdish Peoplesand’ Democratic Party (HDP), told Todayand’s Zaman on Friday that the governmentand’s move to enable YandOK to be able to close down universities is nothing but and”banditry.and”
Kandurkandcandu maintained that the move was not a legal one, nor does it have anything to do with education policy. and”This is nothing but part of the plan to attack all of the values of the public. This regulation is an assault on education, culture and free public platforms using political force, it is banditry,and” he said.
h2Pro-government columnist threatens 17 universities with takeoverh2 Cem Kanduandcanduk, a pro-government columnist known for his threats against journalists critical of the AK Party, recently wrote that the government must take over 17 private universities that he claimed were affiliated with the Hizmet movement.
Kanduandcanduk threatened YandOK President Yekta Saraandc, claiming the head of Turkeyand’s higher education board was not fulfilling his duties in the struggle against the Hizmet movement, also known as the Gandulen movement, a grassroots social initiative inspired by Islamic scholar Fethullah Gandulen.
In a series of tweets earlier in November, Kanduandcanduk wrote that Saraandc has and”immense power bestowed upon him by the law as the head of YandOK,and” adding that Saraandc and”lawfullyand” has the power to take over all 17 universities he claims are affiliated with the Hizmet movement.
In his own way, Kanduandcanduk placated administrations of other private universities by claiming that no other universities apart from the 17 he mentioned are in line to be taken over.

SOURCE: TODAY’S ZAMAN

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