A Kurdish student in a religious imam-hatip high school in Turkey’s northwestern province of Kocaeli was the subject of threats and racist attacks after he said he would not vote for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in the 2023 elections, the Gazete Duvar news website reported on Friday.
According to the report, officials from the AKP visited the high school in Danca earlier this week, asking students to support their party in the upcoming elections. The Kurdish student declined to do so.
The student then found racist slurs on his desk and notes containing threats in his backpack before he was physically attacked by classmates after school hours.
The student’s father, identified in the report only by the initials D. K., recently removed him from the school, worried for his son’s life as the threats, attacks and bullying continued for days after he expressed his refusal to support President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s AKP in 2023.
Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, a human rights advocate and deputy for the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), brought the issue up in parliament, saying it was “unacceptable” that racist attacks have started to take place even in schools because of the “racist” education policies pursued by the government.
The MP accused the Education Ministry of being silent in the face of such attacks in schools and said he had talked to the director of national education in Darıca but found the official’s statements on the issue “inadequate.”
“As a Kocaeli deputy, I’m waiting for an explanation from the Education Ministry. This was a racially motivated attack. The [Kurdish] student is beaten, writing appears on his desk, he is threatened… These aren’t ordinary events,” Gergerlioğlu said.
The MP also asked about the incident and racism in Turkish schools in a parliamentary question posed to Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ.
Gergerlioğlu asked how many people were involved in racist attacks taking place in schools in the last five years and if the claims that the administration of the religious imam-hatip high school wanted to cover up the attacks targeting the Kurdish student were true.
Kurds are Turkey’s largest ethnic minority, making up around 18 percent of the population. The group has faced a long history of discrimination and violence in the country.
Seven out of 10 Kurdish youth in Turkey are subject to occasional or frequent discrimination, according to a December 2020 survey by Rawest, a polling firm that focuses on Turkey’s East and Southeast.