The Turkish government detained 16 academics in Ankara on Thursday as part of its massive post-coup witch hunt targeting alleged members of the Gülen movement.
The detentions came following the issuance of warrants by the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office for 19 staff members of Ankara’s Gazi University over their alleged links to the movement. Seven of the detained academics still work at the university, while nine of them were dismissed by the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government led by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan by government decrees issued under a now-ended state of emergency declared in the aftermath of a controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016.
A report by a New York-based initiative for academic freedom, Scholars at Risk (SAR), shows how deliberate attacks by Turkish authorities on university communities have significantly weakened the country’s ability to produce free-thinking and compete in the global higher education arena.
“For the third consecutive year, SAR has reported a high volume of attacks by Turkish authorities against the country’s higher education communities, directly impacting more than 880 university scholars, students, and staff,” SAR’s “Free to Think 2018” report said.
The crackdown on critical thinking in Turkey with an unprecedented witch hunt targeting teachers, academics and other professionals in the education sector has dealt a huge blow to free thought in Turkey, according to a report released by SCF.
The government of President Erdoğan has jailed some 20,000 instructors and arbitrarily fired 34,185 public school teachers and 5,719 academics including professors from state universities within the last two years alone. They were branded as “terrorists” and “coup plotters” without any effective administrative or judicial probe and as such marked for life.
The 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 cancelled 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.