Zekeriya Yapıcıoğlu, leader of the radical Islamist Free Cause Party (HÜDA-PAR) and an election ally of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, sparked controversy by calling for a comprehensive revision of Turkey’s educational curriculum and opposing mixed-gender education, local media reported on Monday.
HÜDA-PAR won three seats in the Turkish parliament in May, thanks to its alliance with Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
In a recent address to his party, Yapıcıoğlu said the existing educational system is insufficient and stressed the need for a “revolution in education.” He criticized mixed-sex education by suggesting it creates an environment for harassment among students.
“The responsibility lies not with the youngsters but with an educational system that has failed to educate them,” said Yapıcıoğlu.
The alliance between AKP and HÜDA-PAR has faced harsh criticism for the latter’s alleged ties to Hizbullah, an extremist group designated as a terrorist organization by Turkey, and for its regressive stance on social issues. Critics argue that such an alliance contradicts the principles of a democratic society. Hizbullah has been accused of kidnappings, torture and targeted assassinations, predominantly aimed at individuals linked to Kurdish political movements.
Gamze Taşcıer, a member of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), criticized Yapıcıoğlu’s comments.
“We know that they are uncomfortable with the constitutionally guaranteed equality between men and women. Make no mistake, we won’t back down an inch against those who want to remove us from public life,” Taşcıer said.
Turkish Education Minister Yusuf Tekin had also drawn criticism in July for suggesting the building of girls-only schools to increase enrollment rates among female students, sparking backlash from opposition politicians, education unions and social media users.
Critics argue that the focus should be on enforcing laws requiring education for all children rather than fostering gender discrimination.