‘Environmental values class’ in Turkey: sacrifice rituals, handcuffing children

As part of the controversial ÇEDES project supported by Turkey’s Religious Affairs Directorate (Diyanet), children were instructed in animal slaughter techniques at one school, while other students participating in the project in a different school were required to pose wearing handcuffs.

Duvar English

At a secondary school in Isparta province, students were educated in how to conduct ‘sacrifice rituals’ as part of a contentious ‘environmental values class’ initiative called ÇEDES, backed by Turkey’s Ministry of Education and Ministry of Religion, the daily Birgün reported on Feb. 29.

In the instruction session, students were shown how to slaughter an animal using a model. One student was given a real knife to simulate the act of slaughtering an animal, while other students recited a prayer.

In Isparta, children are given knives and shown how to slaughter animals (Photos: BirGün)

At an Imam Hatip secondary school in Yozgat, central Turkey, students adorned with scarves bearing the flags of Palestine and Turkey posed with their hands in handcuffs, as part of a ÇEDES class, mimicking the image of a Palestinian youth smiling while in restraints before being killed.

The scene showing the handcuffed students was shared on social media with the caption, “Our girls’ act of honorable stance,”

In Yozgat, students are made to pretend to be handcuffed, filmed, and shared with a caption, "Our girls’ act of honorable stance."

The state-backed ÇEDES (“I am Sensitive to my Environment, I Stand Up for my Values”) is an initiative by Turkey’s Religious Affairs Directorate (Diyanet), Education Ministry (MEB), and Youth and Sports Ministry.

The project aims to deliver ‘values education’ to students, but has been criticized for shaping behavior aligned with the Turkish government’s conservative ideals.

‘’Instilling enmity against the secular republic in the children’s minds by calling it values education will not be allowed,’’ CHP Izmir Deputy Sevda Erdan Kılıç said on Feb. 29 after in a separate event, primary school children were brought to the tomb of Naqshbandi sect sheik Esad Erbili in Menemen.

‘’At it’s essence, all these practices are aimed to impose ideological values on students based on one religion and one sect,’’ Serkan Bebek of the ‘All Teachers’ Union’ reacted to Birgün. ‘’This step is also to ignore parents of other faiths and sects.’’

In the initial version of the ÇEDES protocol enacted in 2021, only secondary schools and Imam Hatip schools were included in the project.

However, with an additional protocol signed last year, the project was extended to encompass all students, including preschoolers.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has frequently stated that his long-standing wish is to forge a ‘pious generation.’

(English version by Wouter Massink)