In University Purge, Turkey’s Erdogan Hits Secularists and Boosts Conservatives

from The Wall Street Journal,

Crackdown, which has snagged associates of imam Fethullah Gulen and others, is designed to remake country’s higher education in president’s image.

Turkey’s crackdown after the July 15 putsch has been swift and expansive, sweeping through the military, judiciary and higher education. The government declared a state of emergency and said it has detained more than 40,000 people as it hunts for suspected affiliates of the man officials accuse as the mastermind, Fethullah Gulen, a U.S.-based Turkish imam. Mr. Gulen, who counts millions of supporters in part because of his network’s investments in education, has denied any role. Overnight, educators became a suspected class. The Education Ministry dismissed more than 27,000 staff and Turkey’s Council of Higher Education forced all 1,577 university deans to resign, saying only those with no ties to coup plotters would be reinstated. The university watchdog also ordered each university to list faculty suspected of links to Mr. Gulen and has suspended 4,225 academics. The 15 Gulen-linked universities have been sealed like crime scenes.

So far, the purge has affected mainly academics on the outs with Mr. Erdogan even before the coup attempt, chiefly those connected to Mr. Gulen and to causes seen as critical of the government. But the chill is broadening, and many academics from top schools, expecting a second wave of purges, are seeking work abroad. The convulsions in Turkish academia reflect the latest and perhaps most transformative chapter in the long-running story of Turkey’s split between its urban elite and conservative-Muslim interior, showing the acceleration of the country’s shift from stalwart Western ally to aspiring regional power.

The gathering intellectual purge is arming allies of Mr. Erdogan to realize a goal of their own: to tip the balance of power away from the Western-oriented ivory towers in Istanbul and Ankara toward what ruling-party adherents call academies for “New Turkey”—an amalgamation of Islamic piety and nationalism rooted in the Ottoman past. The government has suspended the U.S. State Department’s Fulbright English Teaching Assistant program and canceled the European Union’s Jean Monnet scholarships after the failed coup.

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