Education halted at high school in north Turkey amid tension over religious school students
Rifat Başaran – ANKARAEducation was halted on the third day of the new school year at a high school in the Akçakoca district of the Black Sea province of Düzce, as tensions grew following the school’s conversion to a girls’ vocational imam-hatip religious school.
After the social sciences high school in the district was converted into an imam-hatip school along with its 79-bed capacity students’ hostel, 200 students already at the school were due to be transferred to the nearby Barbaros Anatolian High School in the district.
However, unhappy with the changes, the social sciences high school students refused to leave their old classrooms to the incoming imam-hatip students, leading to rising tension and protests at the school.
A number of students already studying at the school condemned the situation on Sept. 21 with the support of their parents.
Parents brought the issue to an administrative court one week before the beginning of the new semester.
Belma Öztürk, the head of the school’s parent-teacher association, said they were waiting for a court decision on the conversion of the school.
“We were told in June that our school would be turned into an imam-hatip high school and our children would be resettled in another school. Yesterday [Sept. 20] we came early and brought our children to class. But today [the former imam-hatip students] had settled into class before us and our children were left to work in the canteen,” Öztürk said.
She added that the Barbaros Anatolian High School was also disturbed by the arrival of new students, as average student numbers in classes had increased sharply to open up space for newcomers.
Following the protests, Akçakoca District Governor Mehmet Özer and Düzce provincial director of education, Murat Yiğit, arrived at the school to try to calm the situation.
“The imam-hatip secondary and high school students are studying together and there are nearly 600 students in total. The number of social sciences students dropped to 158, so we decided to move students here to the upper story of the Barbaros Anatolian High School,” Yiğit told daily Hürriyet.
Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Mahmut Tanal also arrived at the school to speak to the protesters, describing the tension as “dangerous.”
“They are pitting the imam-hatip students and social sciences students and their parents against each other due to lack of administrative planning. They wanted to start arguments using the imam-hatip schools and now those children are looking at each other’s face with hatred. There is a dangerous tension here that scared me. The public only needs a spark. I invite the parents and students of both schools to moderation,” Tanal told Hürriyet.