Translated from Turkish by Translators for Justice
When the prime minister “requested” it, school administrators followed the order: even students who did not want to take religion courses were involuntarily enrolled in the religion course. When parents opposed, they were questioned about which political party they support. Prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s recent call in Malatya for young people to take religion courses as an elective showed its effects quickly. Although students in a high school in Ankara did not choose to enroll in a religion class, many were pressured to take that class. Moreover, when the students explained that they do not want to take religion courses, they were told that there are not any available teachers for the other electives, while the parents received threatening calls from strangers and were asked if they were communists.
The students of Kaya Beyazitoglu Anatolian high school in Batikent, Ankara said they were obliged to take the religion course despite the fact that they did not choose to do so. Parents went to school to show their reaction. One of the parents who wanted to see the list of students who chose to take the elective religion course was denied by the assistant director of the school. In response, the parent told the assistant director “I know that there are really only three or four students who chose the religion as an elective course. Your actions are nothing but an endorsement of the government and the Minister of Education”. The assistant director did not try to respond to these claims. Instead, the assistant director asked the parent “which party do you belong to?” The parent’s persistence forced the assistant director to agree that the students can take other courses if the parent can find 12 students that want to enroll.
A Threatening call
One of the parents who received a call from a stranger said that the unknown person asked whether she/he was communist and said that they were causing trouble. The parent suspects that her phone number was possibly given to the stranger by school administration.
Religion through Coercion!
After all these developments, the teachers that work in that region mentioned that similar events took place in a couple of different schools; school administrations pressured the students to take religion as an elective course. However, several had to give up due to the reactions of parents. It is also mentioned that the school director was going to set up a meeting with the parents to solve the issue.
And what did Tayyip Erdogan say? In his speech in Malatya, he said that courses on the Koran and Life of the Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) were made available to take as elective courses in normal high schools. “You wanted it and we realized it! My brothers; parents — the life of the beloved prophet who is also the only leader is a guide for us. We can succeed a lot of things on his path. Therefore, I believe that there is good in the action of parents who consider the future of their children and who can be insightful on elective courses. Let’s show those who do not have respect for public’s wish what it means to respect the public!”