Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on Saturday that the government would open more imam-hatip schools (religious schools) amid allegations that the schools are used as recruiting grounds by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
“We will open more imam-hatip middle schools and high schools,” said Çavuşoğlu on Saturday during an inauguration ceremony in Antalya province.
“We want to raise pious generations,” then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told an assembly of AKP youth members in 2012.
When the AKP took power in 2002, around 65,000 students were enrolled in imam-hatip schools, which are widely criticized for instilling a political Islamist ideology. That figure had risen to more than 1.5 million by 2016.
The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) claims that Turkey’s education policy was designed by Erdoğan’s son, Bilal Erdoğan, in close coordination with Islamist-leaning foundations.
A tape leaked to the Interned in 2014 contained a collection of recordings from various meetings allegedly held by Erdoğan, along with representatives of the Service for Youth and Education Foundation of Turkey (TÜRGEV), the Society for Dissemination of Knowledge, the Ensar Foundation and the Association of İmam-Hatip Graduates and Members (ÖNDER) in addition to senior bureaucrats from the Education Ministry.
In one of the recordings Bilal Erdoğan allegedly explains how the number of students graduating from imam-hatip schools should increase.
The government has already turned some Gülen movement-affiliated schools that it seized into imam-hatips this year.