Turkey celebrates Teachers’ Day as tens of thousands of dismissed teachers jobless or in prisons

Turkey celebrates November 24 Teachers’ Day amid the sufferings of tens of thousands of teachers who have been dismissed from their duties and even their professions and thousands of them have been imprisoned by the oppressive government of Turkish autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

According to the data compiled by the Union of Education (Eğitim-Sen), 41,005 educators including  33,965 teachers, 5,740 academic personnel, 1,300 administrative staff at educational facilities were dismissed by government with 28 decree laws under the rule of emergency declared in the aftermath of a controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

Turkish teachers, who lost their jobs, have became the biggest part of those who lost their jobs and even professions in the wake of the controversial coup attempt. So far, the total number of people who were dismissed from their professions as civil servants exceeds 113,000.

Hüseyin Maden (40) and Nur Maden (36) were two successful teachers who were among those dismissed by the government decrees. Now the whole world knows them. Unfortunately, the horrific tragedy, they shared with their children, brought them to the agenda. The five-member family lost their lives in the cold waters of the Aegean Sea while trying to cross into Greece with a rowing boat.

Hüseyin Maden

The fate of the children who escaped from the war in Syria is shared by their peers now fleeing from Turkey. Hüseyin Maden was a physics teacher living in Daday, a town in Kastamonu province, one of the small cities of Turkey. His wife, Nur, was a kindergarten teacher. As in many other provinces there was no participation into the controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016 in Kastamonu province. However, three teachers, who lived in this small town, were dismissed from their duties with Decree Law (KHK) no. 675. Two of those three dismissed teachers were Hüseyin and Nur Maden.

According to data given by Turkish Labour Ministry, about 30,000 public employees are suspended from their jobs. The process that leads to the death of the Maden Family with three children begun at this point. In the same days, his 26-year-old colleague Selim Gündoğdu hanged himself in the garden of his house and committed suicide. He was also a KHK victim. Educators Nuriye Gülmen and Semih Özakça, who were arrested while staging their hunger strikes in order to get their jobs back and continued their action in the prison, can be deemed in the same way. Özakça was released recently.

After a military coup attempt on July 15, 2016, dismissed teachers who used to be employed by public schools and teachers who worked for private schools are doomed to starvation. Their files in the Social Security Institution (SSI) are labelled with Code 36. This code means that these people can no longer get jobs anywhere. Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Ceyhun İrgil says that this is a full-fledged labelling and it is obviously illegal.

CHP deputy Ceyhun asked the Minister of Labor and Social Security, Jülide Sarıeroğlu, in a motion of inquiry that he submitted at Turkish Parliament, as of the date the number of persons who were dismissed with the Code 36 from their jobs and asked whether there had been any plan to eliminate this victimization and injustice. He has not received an answer yet.

Employees, who are trying to earn their livings by working as uninsured and as cheap labor force, are unable to reduce the fear of employers. Giving a job to a KHK victim may be a reason for the arrest. Examples of arrests of those, who helped victims of the KHK, increase the anxiety.

Mehmet Sarı (48), a member of the Union of Education, who has been working as a teacher for 28 years, summarizes the situation in an interview published in Cumhuriyet daily by saying “They make us social dead.” Sarı also reminds us that around 60 victims of KHK committed suicide in this period. Kezban Seher Darılmaz, who used to be teaching visual arts for 15 years and was dismissed with KHK no.686, said to Evrensel daily that “Our right to work was taken from us. Our diplomas are now invalid. We can not find any job. We can not work with a job assuring insurance. We are trying to make our voice heard.”

It is also forbidden for teachers, who were dismissed by government decrees, to teach private lessons and open study centers. There are reports from time to time in the media that private study centres opened by dismissed teachers have been raided by police and that the teachers have been arrested. Teachers and their family members, who are pushed outside the social security umbrella, are not even eligible to get health services. That is also one of the striking reasons for the increase in suicides among the dismissed teachers and other public servants.

It is a must to open a separate heading for closed-down private schools and other educational facilities while counting negative proceedings in the field of education in wake of the coup attempt on July 15, 2016. According to the information given by Turkish Education Minister İsmet Yılmaz, 1,069 private schools were closed.

Beginning much before the July 15 coup attempt, 1,550 university preparation schools were  also closed by the government and 18,528 teachers has become jobless in a night.

Just after the coup attempt, 301 private study centers were closed by the government and thus the army of jobless has been joined by 19,847 new jobless.

15 private universities, where more than 56,000 students were taking high education, were also closed and thus 5,342 people, including 2,465 academicians, lost their jobs.

The government has also closed hundreds of specialised schools which gave education and training for handicapped children.

Nur Maden and her children.

Most of these educational facilities were successful private schools known for their affiliation to the Gülen movement. However, the government has also closed down tens of schools and other educational facilities operated by leftist or Kurdish entrepreneurs. Teachers working here are also victimized.

Teaching licenses of more than 23,464 teachers, who used to work for these private schools, were revoked by the government. The number of the teachers, who have shared the same fate since they used to work for university preparation schools affiliated with the Gülen movement, is officially unknown. However it is assumed that the number is about 30,000.

Theoretically, there is still a possibility for the other teachers who lost their jobs to find a job in the private sector, because they have still at least teaching licences. However, those whose teaching licenses revoked do not even have such a right to find job even theoretically.

Another victimization is about claiming rights. There is no right for those teachers who used to work for Gülen-affiliated educational facilities to appeal to an ad hoc commission established to handle the cases of those dismissed by a KHK. All judicial paths are closed. Moreover, as if they have plague they have been treated by society more severely than other KHK members.

Overall, the main danger for those dismissed teachers, who used to work for public or private educational facilities, is the threat of arrest. The exact figures of people, who were detained and arrested in the aftermath of the coup attempt on July 2016, are not known since the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government avoids publishing the statistics. The last controversial figures released by then Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ on June 10, 2017, at least 50,402 people were in jail pending trial. SCF believes the number of people who were in jail over their alleged links to the Gülen movement is at least 55,000.

It is known that about 23,000 of imprisoned people are military officers, police officers, judges and prosecutors. Teachers are included in the data presented in the 30,000-slice which is unsorted. Just on last Monday, Ankara Prosecutor’s Office issued detention warrants for 107 dismissed teachers. Teacher Hüseyin Maden and his teacher wife Nur Maden decided on their journey that ended with death due to such an arrest warrant. They were worried about their children that they were unable to fulfill children’s needs and also thad no idea about the kids when they’re imprisoned.

The Couple of Maden and their three children do not exist anymore. How long the rest of 41,000 dismissed teachers who used to work for public schools, 23,464 jobless teachers who used to work for private educational facilities could bear this burden is unknown.

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