ANKARA - Agence France-Presse
The Turkish Parliament has passed a bill to close down thousands of private schools, many of which are run by Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen locked in a bitter feud with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
The bill, which was approved late on Feb. 28, sets Sept. 1, 2015, as the deadline to close down the network of schools.
“Withdraw your kids from their schools,” Erdoğan told a boisterous crowd of his party’s supporters at an election rally in the southwestern province of Denizli on March 1.
“State schools are enough for you,” he said.
There are around 4,000 private schools in Turkey, including an unknown number of preparatory schools run by the movement of the U.S.-based Gülen.
Tensions have long simmered between Erdoğan and Gülen and then reached breaking point in November 2013 when the government first floated the idea of shutting down the schools, which aim to help students prepare for high school and university.
Erdoğan said at the time he wanted to abolish an unfair education system.
“Those who benefit from these courses are the kids of rich families in big cities,” said the premier, who himself hails from humble roots and has tried to cultivate an image as a man of the people during his time in office.
Eyüp Kılcı, deputy principal of the Gülen-affiliated Güvender school network in Ankara, condemned the new legislation, telling AFP it gives Turkey the unenviable distinction of being “the only country which bans education activities.”
The conflict between the AKP and the Gülen movement deepened, when the government accused the movement of being behind a massive corruption investigation as a result of having infiltrated senior positions in the police and judiciary.