Turkey's post-coup purges shake higher education

Tue Aug 30, 2016 2:21pm EDT
 
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By Seda Sezer

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - With the summer holiday almost over, computer science student Hande Tekiner should be gearing up for a year of cram sessions and late-night homework. Instead, she may have nowhere to return to, as her university was shut after Turkey's failed coup.

Authorities have closed 15 universities and around 1,000 secondary schools linked to Fethullah Gulen, the U.S.-based Muslim cleric blamed for the July 15 attempted putsch. Gulen has denied involvement in the plot and condemned it.

The closures have left about 200,000 students in Turkey in academic limbo, wondering if they can continue their studies and worried about the black mark of a Gulen school on their college record. Tens of thousands of academics and school teachers have also been purged, deepening concern about curtailment of academic freedom and free speech.

"As students at universities that have been shut, we are being victimized, even though those schools were opened with state approval," said Tekiner.

The 23-year-old had been due to start her fourth and final year at Mevlana University in the central city of Konya before the coup. "I have doubts if I will be able to finish my studies," she said.

Tekiner said she and others were harassed on social media, labeled by anonymous accusers as supporters of the coup because they attended Gulen schools.

President Tayyip Erdogan and the government say the cleric's network used the schools to recruit followers who then infiltrated the military, civil service and judiciary. Gulen, who has lived in Pennsylvania since 1999, denies the charges.

Turkey has asked the United States to extradite him but Washington says only a federal court can make that decision. Since the coup, in which at least 240 people died, Turkey has detained about 40,000 people and formally arrested half of them.   Continued...

 
The seal is seen on a gate of a girls dormitory which was sealed by Turkish authorities over alleged links to the followers of U.S. based cleric Fethullah Gulen, who Turkey accused of staging a coup attempt in July, in Ankara, Turkey, August 16, 2016. REUTERS/Umit Bektas