Turkish research assistant kills 4 academics after accusing them of being Gülen followers

A research assistant at Osmangazi University in the central Turkish province of Eskişehir has shot and killed four university employees who he has been accusing of being members of the Gülen movement, Turkish media outlets reported on Thursday.

The research assistant, Volkan Bayer, killed Mikail Yalçın, the assistant dean of the education faculty; Fatih Özmutlu, secretary of the education faculty; research assistant Yasir Armağan; and associate professor Serdar Çağlak.

The assailant was captured by police teams still in possession of his gun following the attack.

University Rector Hasan Gönen said Bayer used to accuse the victims of being members of “FETÖ,” a derogatory term coined by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) to refer to the Gülen movement. Gönen said education faculty dean Professor Cemil Yücel was the assailant’s primary target, but he wasn’t in his office at the time of the attack.

Professor Ayşe Aypay, from the same university, said many complaints had been filed against Bayer by the victims, but the authorities took no action to launch an investigation into him. “Who will give an accounting of protecting Volkan Bayer for one-and-a-half years?” asked Aypay. Aypay accused the university of “protecting” Bayar and not taking any action against him for more than a year.

Eskişehir Governor Özdemir Çakacak said in a statement on Thursday that an extensive investigation has been launched into the incident to ascertain the motive for the attack. Bayar’s wife has also been detained as part of the investigation.

Former deputy dean of the education faculty, Prof. Dr Engin Karadağ, said Bayar constantly lodged complaints claiming his colleagues were linked to “FETÖ.” “When I was the deputy dean, we tried to talk to our rector and warned them that Bayar was threatening people with murder. The Police Department and the Directorate of Intelligence also knew about his situation. We warned them,” Karadağ said.

Assistant Professor Yalçın Bay, a former member of staff dismissed from his job upon Bayar’s complaint, accused Bayar of being linked to “FETÖ.” “He accused me of being linked to ‘FETÖ.’ I was dismissed from the university. He lodged complaints about 102 academics across Turkey although he himself was himself linked to ‘FETÖ,’” claimed Bay. Bay applied to a court for false accusation by Bayar, but the prosecutor did not find Bayar guilty as he “was performing his civic duty.”

A funeral ceremony was held at the university’s campus, which was surrounded by relatives of the victims and students. People protested the rector for being irresponsive to the situation and demanded his resignation.

Since a controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016, a total of 5,717 academics at 117 universities have been dismissed from their jobs due to government decrees issued under the ongoing state of emergency. However, according to a BBC Turkish report in July, 23,427 academics have been negatively affected by the state of emergency that was declared following the failed coup attempt in 2016.

The report said at least 23,427 academics either lost their jobs at universities when their contracts were terminated, or were dismissed from their positions, or were left unemployed when the universities where they worked were closed down by the government after Sept. 1, 2016.

Critics say the collective dismissal of academics and collective verdicts without specifying individual crimes violates the principle of “the individuality of crime and punishment in law.”

Emergency rule was declared for three months on July 21, 2016 and became effective with a government decree issued on July 23, 2016. With the first decree, No. 667, 15 private and foundation universities were closed down on the grounds that they were linked to the Gülen movement.

There is no information about the number of administrative staff members working at these universities who were affected, but 2,808 academics were left unemployed and 65,000 students had to seek new universities according to figures from the Higher Education Board (YÖK).

Another state decree in September targeted 15,000 research assistants for their alleged links to the Gülen movement. They were part of an Assistant Professor Training Program (ÖYP) that was launched in 2010 to meet the need for academics in Turkey.

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 autocratic 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 more than 150,000 judges, teachers, police and other civil servants since July 2016. Turkey’s interior minister announced on December 12, 2017 that 55,665 people have been arrested. On December 13, the Justice Ministry announced that 169,013 people have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.

A total of 48,305 people were arrested by courts across Turkey in 2017 over their alleged links to the Gülen movement, Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said on Dec. 2, 2017. “The number of detentions is nearly three times higher,” Soylu told a security meeting in İstanbul and claimed that “even these figures are not enough to reveal the severity of the issue.” (SCF with turkishminute.com)

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