Tens of thousands of teachers faced discriminations and criminal investigations for their conservative views and wearing of the hijab after the Feb. 28, 1997 coup that toppled the government, according to an education union report.
EducationPersonnel Union (Eğitim-Bir-Sen) released a report on the Feb. 28, 1997 coup on Friday, the eve of the coup's 17th anniversary.
According to the report, tens of thousands of teachers faced discrimination and expulsion for their conservative views or wearing hijab. The report indicates that 33,271 teachers were subject to investigation between 1997 and 2003 for their conservative views and wearing hijab.
Safiye Özdemir, head of the Women's Committee at Eğitim-Bir-Sen, announced the report at a press conference in Ankara. Özdemir said 3,271 teachers were fired during the coup process and another 11,890 were subject to disciplinary action.
She said the report was compiled using data provided by government agencies on disciplinary action cases and expulsions based on socalled "reactionism," an adjective attributed to civil servants and students known for their conservative lifestyle. Özdemir noted government agencies did not provide all the data and as such, the current figures did not reflect the full extent of the matter.
The report also indicates that 4,625 personnel working for Ministry of National Education were under surveillance of the Turkish intelligence for their "reactionary" views and about 11,000 teachers were forced to quit.
Özdemir said teachers were blacklisted simply because they wore hijab or performed prayers and were subject to disciplinary investigations. She said the pressure forced many teachers to quit their jobs.
She said that the hijab ban for civil servants was finally lifted with the democratization package announced by the AK Party government in 2013. "But we want our rights reinstated," she said. "The majority of civil servants fired during the coup process were not granted reinstatement to date. Those reinstated to their former jobs were not promoted as they deserved. We need the reinstatement of their past wages and employee rights such as earned promotions and social security benefits they missed in the years after the coup."
Özdemir said ambiguity in the definition of "reactionism" helped coup leaders and accomplices deal a blow against democracy by not only by targeting conservatives but also other members of the society through human rights violations.
She said hijabi women's right to education was hindered through "made-up" regulations ignoring the Constitution and international agreements.
She noted that even women who replaced hijab with wigs or who totally ceased wearing hijab, suffered from continued pressure, and were blacklisted or expelled.
Listing unfair practices against teachers and students, Özdemir said those who had to study abroad in order to acquire a master's degrees after universities in Turkey rejected them for wearing hijab, had "their academic career curtailed."
Özdemir also cited "persuasion rooms" as part of the anti-conservative campaign. "Hijabi students were forced to choose either education or faith in those rooms," she said. University officials interviewed students in these so-called "persuasion rooms" and threatened with expulsion if they failed to remove their hijab.
The coup, whose first signs emerged after conservative Welfare Party (RP) won the 1996 elections, affected conservatives most. Targeted by secular elite whose clout extended from academia to judiciary to the military to media, conservatives faced a witch hunt and defamation campaign starting in 1996.