Asylum-seeking Turkish teacher and her 3 children stranded at Paris airport

A Turkish teacher and her three children have been stranded at an airport in Paris for 10 days waiting to be deported after French authorities declined to grant her asylum, according to a report by Euronews on Thursday.

Melek Yılmaz, an alias Euronews used to protect the identity of the asylum seeker, had worked as a geography teacher before being dismissed from her job just like almost 130,000 other public employees in Turkey following a controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

Yılmaz lost her job over her alleged links to the Gülen movement. She was detained the day after she was dismissed and later released on judicial probation, while her husband fled Turkey as a warrant had been issued for his arrest.

A court sentenced Yılmaz six years, three months in prison on terrorism charges for working in a private school affiliated with the Gülen movement, having an account in private lender Bank Asya and sending her children to schools affiliated with the movement, Euronews said.

Yılmaz entered Greece illegally at the Evros River, which marks the Turkish-Greek border, and joined her husband to head for France. She was stopped when she landed in Paris by the police who noticed that she and her children, aged 14, 12 and 10, did not have visas.

Yılmaz and her three children have had no option but to stay in the airport since Aug. 27 while she applied for asylum. But French authorities declined her request after a 40-minute video conference and without examining the documents she provided, Euronews said.

Guillaume Perrier, former Turkey correspondent of the Le Monde newspaper, on Wednesday criticised the deportation decision on Twitter, saying that denying political asylum to the Turkish teacher was unbelievable.

The Turkish government shut down 1,069 privately run schools, most of which were the nation’s best performing science schools and were affiliated with the Gülen movement, and closed down 15 universities that were run by privately held foundations. As a result, 2,465 academics and 54,350 teachers instantly became unemployed. With the support staff who worked in these schools, the total number of people who lost their jobs reached 65,214. The government also canceled the licenses of 22,474 teachers, making it impossible for them to continue working as teachers in other institutions.

In total, 96,719 teachers and academics were purged from Turkey’s public and private educational institutions. This number does not include the support staff that was hired to run schools and universities in administrative and other capacities.

Most of the shuttered institutions were transformed into religious schools that are designed to raise a new generation of Islamist supporters for Erdoğan’s AKP.

When all the closed institutions are taken into account, the total loss in value including fixed property and land is around $100 billion, one source estimates. The crackdown included foreign students who came to Turkey for study or Turkish students who were sent abroad on government scholarships.

Hundreds of thousands of people in Turkey have been the subject of legal proceedings in the last two years on charges of membership in the Gülen movement since a coup attempt on July 15, 2016, a Turkish Justice Ministry official told a symposium on July 19, 2018.

“Legal proceedings have been carried out against 445,000 members of this organization,” Turkey’s pro-government Islamist news agency İLKHA quoted Turkish Justice Ministry Deputy Undersecretary Ömer Faruk Aydıner as saying.

Turkey survived a controversial military coup attempt on July 15, 2016, that killed 249 people. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.

Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the movement, strongly denied having any role in the failed coup and called for an international investigation into it, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.

Turkey has suspended or dismissed about 170,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants since July 15, 2016. On December 13, 2017, the Justice Ministry announced that 169,013 people have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.

Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu announced on April 18, 2018, that the Turkish government had jailed 77,081 people between July 15, 2016, and April 11, 2018, over alleged links to the Gülen movement.

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