Turkey’s opposition politicians have criticized President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) for signing an agreement with Qatar that will allow its military personnel and students to study medicine in Turkish universities “without taking exams” required for Turks who want to pursue higher education in the country.
Titled “Training and Cooperation in the Field of Military Health,” the protocol was approved by Erdoğan and put into effect on Friday, according to the Official Gazette, allowing military personnel and students from Qatar to be accepted into programs of medicine, dentistry and pharmacy in Turkish universities without being required to take entrance exams that Turkish students are subject to.
The protocol, which also allows Turkish military personnel to pursue medical studies and training in Qatar without taking any qualifying tests, is silent on examinations.
“Don’t you ever feel shame for doing such things, AKP? Wasn’t any one of you able to come out and say that this was unfair? Our children waste their youth on [efforts to succeed in exams to] get into those schools,” Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), said in a tweet.
CHP lawmaker Mustafa Adıgüzel also condemned Erdoğan’s move favoring Qatari cadets, which came a day before Turkish students take university entrance exams – the Basic Proficiency Test (TYT), the Area Qualification Test (AYT) and the Foreign Language Test (YDT) – on June 26 and 27.
“Unfortunately, our youth are treated as second-class citizens next to foreign nationals. These young people and their families will make you pay for this,” Adıgüzel added, referring to the next elections in 2023.
Nationalist opposition İYİ (Good) Party group deputy chair Lütfü Türkkan made a sarcastic comment on the development on Twitter, saying, “Let’s just hand the country to Qatar altogether and get this over with.”
Although the agreement was initially interpreted by the public to allow all Qatari students into medical programs in Turkey, the Turkish Defense Ministry on Friday released a statement rejecting the claims.
The protocol covers exchange students, military-civilian personnel serving in the Qatari Armed Forces and students who will train for the Qatar military, the ministry explained, adding that more information would be released on the protocol in the upcoming days.
In November 2020 Turkey’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) authorized the Qatar-based Gulf Helicopters to train Qatari aviation personnel for a certificate of competency in the civil aviation industry, making it the only company outside Turkey that is authorized by an institution affiliated with Turkey’s Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure.
Qatar and Turkey have enjoyed close relations, particularly since a diplomatic crisis with the Gulf country erupted on June 5, 2017. The Arab quartet, led by the UAE and Saudi Arabia, accused Qatar of links to the Muslim Brotherhood along with several other militant Islamist groups in the region.
Qatar was supportive of the Arab Spring, which first erupted in 2011 in Tunisia, with a view to ousting established regimes in Arab countries. Since then, Turkey has backed Qatar and increased its number of troops in the Gulf country.