Teachers detained in ‘witch-hunt’ operation on Teachers’ Day

The private Sehzade Mehmet Kindergarten, Primary and Secondary Schools were raided on the 87th anniversary of the day Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the Turkish Republic, was declared the nation’s head teacher (Basogretmen). The day is celebrated as Teachers’ Day every Nov. 24.

Police detained teachers A.D., E.K., F.S.B., H.O., İ.D., M.Y. and S.S. in the presence of their students and three others were detained in their homes. Police officers took the detainees to the Manisa Police Department and took their statements.

In a similar government-orchestrated operation, which critics say amounts to a political witch hunt, dozens of people, including lawyers, doctors and educators, were detained in Manisa on Nov. 10 on charges of providing financial support to the “parallel structure.” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan coined the term “parallel structure” to refer to the Gulen movement, also known as the Hizmet movement and inspired by Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gulen.

Although all of the detainees were released, seven were detained again and arrested on Nov. 17.

Veli Tosun, the Manisa branch head of the Union of Active Educators (Aktif Egitim-Sen), reacted to the police operation, telling Today’s Zaman that it has damaged teachers’ reputation and dignity. “While teachers should be enjoying Nov. 24, the day when the sanctity and importance of teaching is emphasized across the country, they are instead being detained in an operation that must be regarded as a heavy blow [to education]. We condemn this unlawful treatment that harms [detained] teachers’ dignity and reputation.”

Cihan Confederation of Trade Unions (Cihan-Sen) General Director Naci Haliloglu released a written statement on Teachers’ Day and said teachers have been victims of a witch-hunt targeting them for the last few years. “Especially in the last two years, teachers have been, and still are, subjected to unlawful treatment. As part of a witch-hunt against them, thousands of teachers are being targeted according to the unions they are members of, the newspapers they read, the prep schools they enroll their children in and the political party they support. They are thus becoming victims of bullying at work,” Haliloglu stated.

Erkan Akcay, a deputy from the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), spoke to Today’s Zaman on Tuesday, saying it is wrong to detain teachers when their students are present. “If police want to detain these people, they should do it in their home. Detaining teachers in front of their students is [the government’s] attempt at building an empire of fear and to intimidate people. This is way too much. This is an act of tyranny. I will visit the raided schools and support the detained teachers in their legal fight to protect their rights. This operation is not only about teachers, it’s about students’ parents, too,” Akcay said.

A number of private and prep schools that are inspired by Gulen were targeted by the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) after a major graft investigation implicating President Erdogan and other top AK Party figures was made public on Dec. 17, 2013. Then-Prime Minister Erdogan accused the Gulen movement of plotting to overthrow his government.

Erdogan has said he would carry out a “witch hunt” against anyone with links to the movement. He has also ordered officials in AK Party-run municipalities to seize land and buildings belonging to the Gulen movement by any means necessary. In May 2014, Erdogan 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].” The movement strongly rejects the allegations brought against it.


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