Turkey’s education unions deem use of schoolyards for mass prayer ‘unconstitutional’
Turkey’s two largest education unions said that the use of schoolyards for mass Friday prayers of Muslims was “unconstitutional” as schools are public venues, and should be equally distanced from all faiths. The Education Ministry also assigned teachers to assist in the prayer ceremony by handing out hand sanitizer and ensuring social distancing.
Two of the largest education unions in Turkey said that the Interior Ministry’s decision to allocate schoolyard as back up locations for mass Friday prayers was “unconstitutional,” daily Cumhuriyet reported on May 29.
The Interior Ministry had commissioned governor’s offices nationwide to designate local schools to congregations for their mass Friday prayers, which recommenced on May 29 after a months-long ban that aimed to curb the spread of coronavirus.
Meanwhile, provincial education directorates across the country were asked to appoint male teachers to assist in the mass Friday prayer of May 29 by distributing masks to congregation members and ensuring safe social distancing.Turkey's top religious authority mandates masks and social distancing for worshippers as mosques reopen
Turkey’s Union of Education Workers (Eğitim-Sen) and Education and Science Workers’ Union (Eğitim-İş) noted that the use of schools, which are constitutionally mandated to stand at equal distances from all religions, for Muslim mass Friday prayers went against the reason why schools were founded.
“It’s perfectly obvious that public schools are not to be used for purposes other than teaching and education. Assigning teachers to assist in Friday prayers is out of the question. Public servant can not be assigned outside the realm of public service,” Eğitim-Sen Chair Feray Aytekin Aydoğan said.
Aydoğan said that the use of schools for Friday prayers was part of a series of events that “present an assault against secular law.”
The chairman noted that the incident was similar to Turkey’s mandate of opening prayer rooms in schools and building mosques on university campuses, practices led by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
“Organizing events that represent a single faith in schools, which are public venues, goes against international treaties and the constitution,” Aydoğan added.
Eğitim-İş Chair Orhan Yıldırım said that the Ministry of Education (MEB) had previously tried to assign teachers to duties that were outside of their job definition, possibly referring to the assignment of some 884 MEB officers to cleaning duties in March.
“No matter the faith, be it a mosque, a church or synagogue, we, as Eğitim-İş, are opposed to assignments like handing out hand sanitizer and tissues that degrade teachers,” Yıldırım said.
“Any services for worship should be funded through the Religious Affairs Directorate’s budget that goes hand in hand with the MEB.”1,003 animals to be sacrificed for mosque reopenings, says top cleric