Turkey’s Top Court Overrules Erdogan’s Closure of Rival Schools


Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Recep Tayyip Erdogan

ISTANBUL (DW) — Thousands of private prep schools won’t have to shut their doors following a constitutional court ruling. The schools are thought to be a major source of funding for a political rival to President Erdogan.

Late on Monday, Turkey’s Constitutional Court struck down a law that aimed to close a series of tutoring schools linked to Fethullah Gulen, a Muslim cleric based in the US. Gulen is the head of the Hizmet movement, and considered to be a political enemy of Turkish President Reçep Tayyip Erdogan.

The legislation in question, which Turkey adopted in March 2014 when Erdogan was still prime minister and head of government, would have shut down thousands of special secondary schools across the country. The schools, called “dersanes,” prepare students for Turkey’s university entrance exam, and are a major source of income for the Hizmet movement. The law required these schools to be shut by September 1 this year.

After the main opposition party, the Republican People’s Party, brought a peitition before the Constitutional Court, the court on Monday said the law violated freedom of education, Turkey’s Hurriyet daily wrote. The court is expected to announce further reasoning for its decision on Wednesday. The same court overturned Erdogan’s attempt to block access to Twitter in 2014.

There are 3,800 dersanes across Turkey that serve 1.2 million students. Opponents of the law said shutting the schools down would affect the most disadvantaged students trying to win a spot at Turkey’s more exclusive universities.

Erdogan and Gulen were once political allies, but turned against each other in 2013 when Erdogan accused Gulen of inventing corruption allegations in order to de-throne Erdogan and his party.