Turkey’s Higher Education Board demands resignation of 1,577 deans

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Turkey’s Higher Education Board (YÖK) has demanded the resignation of 1,557 deans on duty at all private and state universities across the country after Friday’s failed coup attempt by a group of military officials.

The move came amid a massive crackdown on Turkey’s high ranking soldiers, judiciary members, and public personnel over alleged links to the failed military coup attempt, which left more than 200 people dead.

A number of intellectuals and opinion leaders both in Turkey and abroad hold forth that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan uses the coup attempt as an excuse to conduct massive purges in important government bodies and fill the vacant positions with his loyalists.

Erdoğan and Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım have accused the Gülen movement, a grassroots social initiative inspired by Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, of being behind the military coup.

However, reports say that the Gülen movement does not seem to have such a massive influence over the Turkish military, which is known for its Kemalist roots that is against the Gülen movement. The rebel soldiers who attempted to stage a coup named themselves as “Council of Peace At Home,” in a declaration they forcibly had delivered by the state-run broadcaster TRT on Friday night. “Peace at home, peace in the world” is a famous saying by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Republic of Turkey.

The Gülen movement carries out charitable activities all around the world, including education, distributing humanitarian aid and providing drinking water especially in African countries.

Since a massive corruption scandal that implicated then-ministers of the Cabinet erupted on Dec. 17, 2013, Erdoğan and the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government claimed that the graft investigation was a “coup attempt” against his government and accused the Gülen movement of being behind it. The sons of ministers, well-known business people, a district mayor, a director of a state-owned bank, and many high-profile figures, who were arrested as part of the investigation, were released and the prosecutors who initiated the case were later imprisoned as a result of political interference. However, four Cabinet ministers were forced to resign.

The major graft case was closed by other prosecutors who replaced them, with all the charges against politicians and business people being dropped. A parliamentary investigation against the four ministers was also dropped with AK Party votes. The graft probe had implicated then-Prime Minister Erdoğan, members of his family and senior AK Party figures. In 2014, Erdoğan publicly vowed to carry out a “witch hunt” against the movement’s sympathizers and thousands of people were detained and arrest – mostly without a single evidence brought against them – since then.

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