Ferhat Yaşar/ DUVAR

Despite a court’s decision to cancel the transformation of the İsmail Tarman Middle School in Istanbul’s Beşiktaş district into an religious school, the school remains closed. Area residents have been staging demonstrations every day based on the fact that their children are being prevented from going to the shuttered school. 

Lawyer Arzu Becerik said that a process began in 2016 to transform schools in Beşiktaş to religious schools given that it is a notably secular district that overwhelmingly votes for the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP). 

“If we do it in Beşiktaş, we can do it everywhere, is the actual message they are trying to send,” Becerik said. 

The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has opened thousands of İmam Hatip (religious schools) across the country in an effort that critics say amounts to imposing the creation of a pious generation from the top down, even in areas where the residents are not religious and do not want their children to be sent to such schools. 

“After an Istanbul court cancelled the decision, we went to the district National Education Administration in order for the decision to be implemented. They said that the [relevant] instructions had to be sent to them [first]. We spoke with the office of the legal councellor, and they said that instructions would be given regarding the implementation of the Istanbul court’s decision, but the next day the office of the legal councellor was removed from duty. As they do not recognize the law here, we see that they are creating intimidation and making this difficult for us,” Becerik said, adding that the government was trying to send the message that “regardless of what ever they do, they will not achieve their desired result.”

Becerik said that parents in the area have been involved in the process and that they have filed a lawsuit and continue to send petitions regarding the manner.