Fight erupts at Turkish Parliament amid talks over cram school bill
Hürriyet PhotoThe high tension across Turkish politics, currently inflamed by the hostility between the government and the movement of Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, is being reflected at Parliament, with physical fights between ruling and opposition parties becoming an almost routine occurance.
During debates over a bill to “transform” private test prep schools (dershanes), which is strongly objected to by the Gülen Movement, ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) deputies and main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputies once again came to blows.
As fists were flying, CHP Kayseri deputy Şevki Kulkuoğlu was struck by AKP deputy Metin Külünk, and was taken to hospital after feeling faint and bleeding from his nose.
Speaking to reporters on Feb. 28, Kulkuloğlu said he was given a medical report stating that he will be unable to work for 12 days.
“This is the third [offense]. Ali İhsan Köktürk’s nose was broken and Bülent Tezcan’s cheekbone was broken. Enough is enough,” he said, referring to earlier incidents in which CHP deputies were harmed.
Parallel or reflection?
A speech by CHP deputy Melda Onur, in which she harshly questioned the AKP’s motives for drafting such a bill, had escalated tension at Parliament late Feb. 27.
Onur held a mirror to the side where Education Minister Nabi Avcı and other deputies were seated, and said: “Here, we’re not seeing ‘the parallel,’ but rather we’re seeing the reflection. Do you see the parallel structure? You were all there, ladies and gentlemen.”
The term “parallel state” or “parallel structure” is commonly used by critics to refer to the Gülen movement. Gülen has been in voluntary exile in the United States for over a decade. The alleged “parallel state” is accused by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of orchestrating the corruption scandal to unseat him. The related investigation went public in mid-December and triggered a huge counter-reaction from the AKP, particularly in the judiciary, as it aimed to contain the damage from the probe, which involved the sons of three former ministers and businesspeople known to be close to the government.
With her speech at Parliament, CHP deputy Onur was seeking to recall that in the past the AKP and the Gülen Movement were in harmonious cooperation.
The government’s decision to close down, or “transform,” the dershanes is seen by many as the last straw in the previously simmering rift between the AKP government and the Gülen movement. The escalating tension triggered a chain of events, which eventually led to a public fight between the government and the movement, in which Erdoğan and Gülen themselves were also publicly involved.
Education Minister Avcı recently acknowledged that the dershane “transformation” bill may have an impact on close to 40,000 personnel working at the schools, many of which are owned by businesspeople close to the Gülen movement.
When the bill is recorded in the Official Gazette, the senior-level bureaucratic administration at the Education Ministry will change entirely, the exception being the undersecretary.
According to the bill, the terms for principals and deputy principals will be restricted to four years. Accordingly, principals and deputy principals who have been in office for four years or longer after the bill goes into effect will automatically be relieved of their duties.
“We are abolishing the cram schools. Does the state have schools? Yes. Then, why cram schools? They have always regarded our citizens as a commodity; they have constantly swindled [them], because there was a very huge annuity there, $1 billion a year. Would this annuity get lost? Of course, steps have been taken because of this,” Erdoğan said Feb. 22, delivering a speech at a rally in the Central Anatolian province of Sivas.