University refuses admission to woman jailed over Gülen links

Ünzile Köşker, who was jailed for alleged links to the Gülen movement, was not allowed to enroll at a university despite passing the nationwide entrance exam because she “posed a risk,” Bold Medya reported.

Köşker wrote a letter about the incident to Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputy Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, who published it on Twitter, criticizing the university’s move.

Köşker said she took the exam in June and gained the right to enroll in the history department of Adıyaman University. However, the university declined to go forward with her enrollment, saying they could not take the risk of accepting her as she had been arrested for alleged links to the Gülen movement.

Köşker is currently in Bünyan Prison in Kayseri province.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen movement, inspired by Turkish Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, since the corruption investigations of December 17-25, 2013, which implicated then-Prime Minister Erdoğan, his family members, and his inner circle.

Dismissing the investigations as a Gülenist coup and conspiracy against his government, Erdoğan designated the movement as a terrorist organization and began to target its members. He intensified the crackdown on the movement following an abortive putsch on July 15, 2016 that he accused Gülen of masterminding. Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.

According to the Directorate General of Prisons and Detention Houses, inmates have the right to education including obtaining a university degree. They can continue with a university education through distance learning.

The Turkish Statistical Institute (TurkStat) revealed that the number of inmates with university degrees in Turkey increased more than twofold between 2016 and 2020, reaching 20,333.

The dramatic increase reflects the increasing number of political prisoners in the country in the aftermath of the coup attempt in July 2016.

In addition to the rising number of inmates with university degrees, many inmates are applying for their first or second degree from prison. However, some universities are refusing the admission of political prisoners and people who were subject to investigations after the coup attempt.

The İzmir-based Ege University announced on its website in 2019 that it would not admit former public servants summarily dismissed by government decrees after the coup attempt to its graduate school.

Ankara University, one of Turkey’s oldest institutions of higher learning, changed its regulations in 2017 saying it would not admit prospective students who had previously been fired from public service.

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