The Erdogan government has attacked education a great deal in the past years. What are some of these attacks and why did they occur?
The latest measures are the final steps to conquer educational facilities in Turkey. It started with measures that changed high schools to “imam hatips”, which train government employed imams with a “less-scientific” high school education. There were also general changes in the syllabus, like wiping out Darwin from the school books. A significant percentage of the youth were forced to go to these kinds of schools because there were no other schools in their neighborhood. It was the practical reflection of Erdogan’s statement: “We want to raise a devout youth.”
Erdogan’s war against universities started with the student protests 5 years ago. Students have protested about a variety of topics throughout the past 5 years- such as against Erdogan’s visits to campus, or against opening a police station on campus. In the last two years, many student protested the massacres in Kurdistan like the bombing of Suruç or the airstrike on the peasants illegally trading across the border. There are also protests to defend the secular education system. These aren’t mass movements, but they exist. Students who protested against the government were mainly concentrated in ODTÜ (Middle East Technical University), which was also the center of the leftist movement in the 70’s. In the last 2 years the police and special security were deployed to many universities to repress the leftist groups. Even hanging posters or setting-up info-tables were excuses to suspend students from the university. Erdogan also used his position to assign a rector to the universities.
The right to assign the head of universities was given to the President by the coup in the 80’s. The deans and rectors play a major role in higher education, so the move to have the state assign them is part of a goal to gain full control of the education system. The rectors decide what kind of research is allowed or prohibited and are able to profile, ban political groups and even repress students.
The latest measures of the AKP include suspending more than 15,000 employees of the education ministry, cancelling the teaching licenses of 21,000 teachers and requesting the resignation of more than 1,500 deans from universities. What do you make of this latest AKP move?
The Islamic Gülen-movement, the old political ally of Erdogan and AKP, has a large influence in the army and bureaucracy. These sectors formed the basis of support for the AKP regime. After they turned against each other, the government attempted to “cleanse” state organs. When we examine the high numbers of people arrested, it seems that Erdogan is taking the full advantage of the coup attempt to eliminate all of the opposition, including those who have nothing to do with the Gülen-movement.
If the request for resignation for teachers had happened a week ago, I would call it a daring move. Resistance and protest against this request would be expected. But after recent events, it seems that Erdogan has became more powerful than ever in the eyes of the people. An expression of this is the fact that all of the deans resigned by the time requested. It is a situation where the opposition fails to resist.
What are the consequences for the population these days?
My friends and family are scared of how this situation is developing. In the past two days, the police controlled Whatsapp messages and photos on people’s phones. There is news that many people are being arrested for supposedly insulting Erdogan on the phone or in public. They are arrested without any solid evidence of the charge. They have been stopping people on the subway and searching their phones and their messages.
Islamists have been threatening people on public transport and in the streets. Mobs tried to aggressively enter the Alawite neighborhoods. There are patriotic slogans on every billboard, some of which are paid for by the government itself and others by Islamists.
People are concerned about the masses that went to the streets with weapons and Islamist slogans. This is especially true after the declaration of Erdogan´s main consultant, who said that a new bill may be passed allowing people to arm themselves against such coup attempts. This is a project for Erdogan’s civil army.
In general, Erdogan is deepening repression to all sectors of the opposition and young people. Can you say a little more about that?
It seems that Erdogan will use the political advantages created by the coup attempt to strengthen his power and repression. It is also known that in such situations, the AKP always tries to pass new labour-laws against the working class in order to gain the support of the fragmented bourgeoisie. An example of this is the recent rental labor law that passed during the war in Kurdistan. This new law allows companies to break with contracts more easily and “rent” workers from Employment Centers.
And what are the consequences of this situation for the Kurdish people?
This is perhaps the most difficult question. In the past months, Erdogan used the war against the Kurds to restore his popularity and win support for the regime in nationalist sectors.
Personally, I see two possibilities. Erdogan may think that he doesn’t need the conflict with the Kurds anymore, so he could begin another peace process. This time will not be on the old terms- it will not consider giving democratic rights to the Kurds. In this case, the goal for Erdogan would be to seem like the savior of the situation.
Another possibility is that Erdogan could use his new power and support to organize a full war on the HDP and the Kurds in order eliminate any chance of resistance to his regime and his bonapartist-presidential dreams.
So it seems to me that the reactionary situation will remain or even advance. The hope for salvation remains in the universities where the youth is trying to resist, in the Kurdish regions where Kurds are fighting for their existence and in the poor quarters of big cities and factories where there is working class struggle.