Assault on the Right to Education in Turkey


New Report: Assault on the Right to Education in Turkey

[New York, January 24, 2022] The latest report of the Journalists and Writers Foundation, launched today in observance of the International Day of Education 2022, calls on the Turkish government to uphold fundamental human rights and its international obligations on the right to education by implementing effective measures.

The report, Assault on the Right to Education in Turkey, sheds light on the violations of the right to education by the Government of Turkey in the aftermath of the attempted coup of July 15, 2016. The report focuses on the right to education by drawing in-depth information from structured interviews with Turkish students whose right to education has been violated by the government of Turkey and by analyzing arbitrary arrests, abductions, detentions, threats, dismissals, and confiscations in the education sector, using new discriminatory legislation and decree laws.

The findings of the report reveal that the Turkish government is in flagrant breach of its international obligations under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) to respect, protect and fulfil each of the “essential features” of the right to education: availability, accessibility, acceptability, adaptability.

The Turkish government has introduced new legislation and practices in education that discriminate against students, teachers, and academics based on their affiliation with different groups, in particular those close to the Hizmet/Gülen Movement. The Turkish government arbitrarily closed thousands of private educational institutions and confiscated their properties and assets in a discriminatory manner. The actions of the Turkish government have had devastating effects on higher education in Turkey by denying academic freedom and other freedoms, ultimately jeopardizing Turkey’s future.

The Journalists and Writers Foundation calls on the Turkish government to:

  •  Review and repeal all discriminatory legislation, and comply with international laws, the Turkish legislation, and rulings of the highest courts.
  • Reverse all the de facto discriminatory legislation and practices in the education system, including labeling students with diplomas stating, “closed by decree law 667”.
  • Rescind the decisions to close and confiscate private educational institutions and return the thousands of educational institutions to their legitimate owners.
  •  End its attack on the institutions and individuals based on their sociocultural affiliation.
  • Reverse all criminal charges based on decree laws (KHK), release all teachers and academics deprived of their liberty for exercising their fundamental freedoms and ensure academic freedom.
  • Restore all students, teachers, and academics to their former positions dismissed by decree laws.

The report will be launched on Monday, January 24, 2022 in observance of the International Day of Education with important highlights shared with the hashtag #RightToEducationTurkey via Twitter @JWFoundation_  

About JWF: The Journalists and Writers Foundation (JWF) is an international civil society organization dedicated to the culture of peace, human rights, and sustainable development. The JWF is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization registered in New York State and associated with the United Nations Department of Global Communications.


In the aftermath of the attempted coup of July 15, 2016, 1,064 private education institutions, 16 private foundation universities, 360 study centers and 847 student dormitories were permanently closed through government decree. All their assets estimated at around 100 billion US dollars were arbitrarily seized without compensation. It is estimated that 34,274 teachers were dismissed by emergency decree laws. The crackdown the right to education also included canceling teaching licenses of over 21,000 teachers and the closure of teacher unions in flagrant breach of the right to freedom of association. The tens of thousands of dismissed teachers cannot return to their previous jobs, cannot take other state positions, not allowed to work in the private sector and they cannot be employed in other sectors because of the decree dismissal label. Facing precarious living conditions and surviving with no income, at least fifty-three (53) teachers have committed suicide following their dismissals.

Since 2014, the Government of Turkey has pursued a persistent, coordinated, and systematic campaign against Hizmet Movement-affiliated institutions and individuals in the country and abroad by claiming that they were an extension of a “parallel state.” Ever since members of the education system have been routinely subjected, inter alia, to seizure of property, arbitrary detention and arrest, ill-treatment, and punishment over false accusations, including for allegedly “membership of terrorist organizationsspreading terrorist propaganda, inciting people to hatred, violence and breaking the law, and insulting Turkish institutions and the Turkish Republic.”

In the aftermath of the attempted coup of July 2016, the Government of Turkey began an unprecedented crackdown on all dissent, real or not. More than five years following the attempted coup, hundreds of innocent victims continue to be detained, arrested, and tried every single week for alleged links to Hizmet Movement and the attempted coup, often, if not always, with questionable evidentiary standards and without due process provided for under law.

Blanket denial of human rights and fundamental freedoms however has overshadowed an important right provided for in major United Nations human rights and other treaties, which has been overlooked for too long – the right to education.

One of the key criteria for prosecution on bogus terrorism charges following the attempted coup is the attendance of Hizmet-affiliated schools in the past, either in Turkey or abroad, something which has also become a standard question during police interrogations of all suspects. In the aftermath of the attempted coup, the government blacklisted over 138,000 children previously attending kindergarten through 12th grade, in schools allegedly linked to Hizmet Movement, country’s once best performing school network. By July 2018 that the number of individuals removed from their positions in the education sector was 41,705 and only 15,584 in the military, suggesting that the education sector rather than military was targeted following the attempted coup.

The magnitude of repression by the Turkish government on teachers and other education personnel, without providing a single proof on any wrongdoing by those affected suggests a systematic and widespread effort to suppress any perceived threat to the government – in clear infringement of the right to education and internationally recognized standards of academic freedom. Massive dismissals of teachers and academics, accused of links to Hizmet have significantly affected the education sector and thereby the right to education.