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Turkey cracks down on educators, academics

A day after the ranks of educators and academics were rattled by thousands of suspensions and revocations of teaching licenses, the Turkish government announces a ban on international travel for all academics.

Hussein Malla/AP
Turkish special forces policemen walk in front of their damaged base, which was attacked by the Turkish warplanes during the failed military coup last Friday, in Ankara, Turkey, Tuesday.

Following last week’s military coup attempt, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is leading a sweeping crackdown on those suspected of involvement in the suppressed insurrection. Arrests, detentions, suspensions, and dismissals have already affected tens of thousands of military and government employees, reaching into the corners of the Turkish bureaucratic structure.

And today, the government announced tighter control over educators, banning all professional travel for academics.

The decision comes a day after more than 15,000 Ministry of Education teachers and staff were suspended, and the Higher Education Board called for the resignation of 1,577 university deans. In addition, the licenses of 21,000 private teachers were revoked.

These moves, like those directed at military and police officials, governors, judges, and other civil servants, are part of an effort to rid the government of those who were supportive of the coup and who may be followers of Mr. Erdoğan’s long-time enemy, cleric Fethullah Gülen, who has denied involvement in inciting the coup from Pennsylvania, where he lives in exile.

While the scope of this coup-triggered purge is more far-reaching than those of the past, this is not the first time that Erdoğan has picked through bureaucratic ranks for the disloyal, as the Monitor's Istanbul bureau chief, Scott Peterson wrote Tuesday:

For years, Erdoğan has overseen several purges of so-called Gülenists, removing thousands of policemen, judges, and prosecutors, especially after leaked wire-tapped phone call recordings in December 2013 that appeared to show high level corruption that included Erdoğan himself.

The Gülenists are accused of creating a 'parallel state' in Turkey, which pro-Erdoğan officials describe with a term they coined, calling it the Fethullah Terrorist Organization, or FETO.

Yet despite those earlier moves against Gülenists – which focused on the police and judiciary, not the armed forces – anti-Erdoğan believers remained entrenched enough to mount a coup attempt. 

The move against educators and academia is likely related to these fears, as Mr. Gülen’s supporters operate education networks in Turkey and the United States, The Washington Post reports.

Academics have also criticized Erdoğan in the past.

This may bear relevancy as some observers question whether this crack-down is taking too broad a sweep and becoming a "political witch hunt," as opposed to narrowly focusing on quashing those who started the coup, the Monitor's Mr. Peterson reports.

As for today's announcement of the travel ban on academics, a senior Turkish official, quoted in The Washington Post, said that the ban was a "temporary measure."

"As you surely know, universities have always been crucial for military juntas in Turkey, and certain individuals are believed to be in contact with cells within military," he said.

Along with the ban, the government on Wednesday announced a top-to-bottom inspection of its military courts.

While the travel ban is only supposed to apply to work-related trips, according to The Washington Post, reports have already emerged from professors saying that they are being barred by their administrators from leaving the country or told to cancel plans.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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