It is 25th September, 2021. What a Saturday! Forty-five educational institutions in Turkey’s Aksaray Province are raided. Raiders, confirms a pro-government media house, comprised the police in the company of officials from the Ministry of Education, Social Security, and tax administration. The mission is to grill the institutions in respect of having dismissed teachers on the payroll.
This takes place in the background of very sad news released by the Education and Science Workers’ Union that 53 Turkish teachers have committed suicide as a consequence of being dismissed from their jobs by emergency decree-laws in the aftermath of the until now controversial, planned-to-fail, coup attempt of July 15, 2016.
The Education and Science Workers’ Union Secretary-General, İkram Atabay, is quoted by the Stockholm Centre for Freedom (SCF) as having told the Deutsche Welle (DW) Turkish service that actually many workers took their own lives when they could no longer endure difficulties they encountered subsequent to their dismissal or due to social isolation and pressure.
According to Atabay, a dismissed teacher as well, about 68,000 educators, including teachers and university professors, had been dismissed from their jobs for alleged membership in or relationships with “terrorist organizations” since the abortive putsch. And 20,000 others had lost their jobs after private schools they worked for were shut down by emergency decree-laws on similar allegations.
The Education and Science Workers’ Union, in a report issued one year after the coup, observed that the number of dismissed educators was far higher than that of the military personnel and police officers, adding: “This clearly shows that the real coup was against the education sector and educators.” The purge included 29,444 members of the armed forces and 4,156 judges and prosecutors.
The view of the Union is right. First, now we know that the coup was a self, meaning that Erdogan knows about it more than anybody else. Secondly, the education sector has been targeted more than any other, making sure that its delivery environment and, in particular, the deliverers face the blunt of Erdogan’s omnipresent long arm.
It almost looks like the Erdogan rule has struck ignorance off the country’s major three fundamental enemies list as identified by Said Nursi. The other two are poverty and disunity.
It is strange, but true in the case of Turkey, that in the process of fighting ignorance, teachers are sacked, schools closed. And more to it, the “dismissed teachers are not able to work in the private sector. If the police learn that a workplace employs them, they raid their offices and fine them,” human rights defender and Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputy Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu was quoted as telling DW.
As if that is not bad enough, the government also makes it difficult for them to work formally in the private sector. Even if the dismissed teachers want to take on new skills, the Turkish Employment Agency denies them the chance of attending vocational training courses. A dismissed public school teacher was ordered to stop attending a greenhouse cultivation course to explore new career opportunities. The provincial directorate of agriculture, which was running the course in collaboration with the Turkish Employment Agency, told him that he could no longer attend the program because he was a dismissed public servant.
The thing is nobody can do anything about employment restrictions on dismissed teachers. It is all at the pleasure of Erdogan. Gergerlioglu quotes education minister as saying, “Everyone looks to the [presidential] palace for decisions. One instruction from there determines everything. ..”
The State of Emergency Procedures Investigation Commission (OHAL Commission) takes too much time to process cases filed by the teachers against their dismissal. The same applies to cases brought before the courts after OHAL Commission denials. More than 11,500 cases filed by teachers are pending at the Commission, which was established as an appeals body under pressure from the Council of Europe to relieve the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) of a huge workload of thousands of Turkish applicants who couldn’t take their cases to local courts.
On one side there are demands of disbanding the OHAL Commission because it is run by Erdogan’s supporter — former Justice Ministry deputy undersecretary Selahaddin Menteş. On the other, opposition members of parliament demand creation of a parliamentary commission to look into the affairs of sacked public servants in the hope of making the government compensate them.
The effectiveness of such a commission in the Turkish circumstances is, however, doubtful because the ruling AKP and ally constitute the majority. Self-investigation cannot deliver the goods. Even then Erdogan and his regime have developed special dislike (hatred) for the education sector and educators from the perspective of having links with Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who is living in self-exile in the U.S.
Erdogan, as head of the Turkish Intelligence overseas operations team, is chief planner cross border abductions to bring Gulen-linked educators to Turkey. We have seen this happen to Gulen’s nephew who was living in Nairobi, Kenya, East Africa. The same happened to a founder of Gulen linked education delivery network in Kyrgyzstan.
At home in turkey, the sacked teachers are given such a hard time that they reach the level of committing suicide. With hatred past the boiling point, the government takes measures that add salt to the wound. In Africa this is expressed as urinating on body rashes.
Last week, the government ordered detention of 104 people. And what was their crime? It is assisting families of post-coup victims. Words can’t say it. One has to see the picture of handcuffed men and women because of their kindness to understand what is taking place in Turkey. The question is: “Who will aid families of these detainees? Do Turkish rulers have any grain of conscience left in the circumstances of such system of injustice in the country?”