The failed coup in Turkey last July has resulted in the purges of thousands of public officials. Government representatives are rumored to be investigating suspects’ links to Fethullah Gülen, a US-based Muslim cleric who is said to have sparked the uprising. The crackdown has proven excessive in many sectors of society, leading to the suspension of due process and repression of political opposition in the military, legal system, and police force. Yet the worst-off victim of the crackdown by far has been education.
Since the purge began, the government has closed fifteen universities and 1,000 secondary schools, dismissed 27,000 Ministry of Education staff , suspended 4,255 academics and nearly 10,000 teachers, and asked 1,577 University Deans to resign. The government claims these are security measures designed to safeguard against enemies of the state. Yet the extent of the suspensions and the liberal beliefs of the targeted academics instead demonstrate an attempt by President Erdogan to reform Turkey’s secular education system based on his religious vision. Such actions only confirm Western fears that the purge is an effort to repress political opposition rather than ensure national security.