July 15 replaces 3 national holidays in school commemorations

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According to a circular sent to schools across Turkey by the Ministry of Education, the anniversary of a failed coup on July 15, 2016 is to be commemorated in schools while three national holidays have been omitted from the list of days to be celebrated.

The news broke on social media as concerns grow over the elimination of secularism and the history of modern Turkey following the switch to an executive presidency under President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

According to the new directive, the national holidays of April 23, May 19 and October 29 are not listed among days to celebrate in schools. Critics say such an exclusion might lead to the omission of national day celebrations introduced by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of modern Turkey, in the absence of official instructions to schools.

Turkish Education Minister İsmet Yılmaz recently said a new national school curriculum would exclude the theory of evolution but would include the concept of jihad, or holy war, as part of Islamic law in textbooks.

“Jihad is an element in our religion; it is in our religion. … The duty of the Education Ministry is to teach every deserving concept correctly. It is also our job to correct things that are wrongly perceived, seen or taught,” he said.

In reference to the removal of evolution theory from the new curriculum, Yılmaz said it was not included “because it is above the students’ level and not directly relevant.”

Yılmaz also said last year’s failed coup attempt would be touched on in classes while the national struggle led by Atatürk was being discussed.

He added that students would be taught about terrorist groups such as the “Fethullahist Terrorist Organization” (FETÖ), the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

“FETÖ” is a term used by government circles to refer to the faith-based Gülen movement, a civil society movement inspired by the views of US-based Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, who is accused by Turkish authorities of masterminding the failed coup last year.

A widespread witch-hunt against Gülen followers was launched by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and President Erdoğan, despite Gülen having denied any involvement in the putsch, proposing the establishment of an international commission to investigate the coup attempt.

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