Turkey’s Education Ministry unveiled new regulations this week that require every new school in the country be outfitted with gender-separated Muslim prayer rooms.
The new regulations were published in the government’s official newspaper and call for public and private schools under the purview of the governemnt to also have an ablution house used for ritual washing before praying.
Set out in Article 5, the new regulations specify each school must have a “shelter according to the relevant legislation, such as a manager’s office, an administrative room, an ablution house, a mosque, kitchen / dining room / canteen / cafeteria, Storage room / equipment room / archive room, sufficient number of toilets and washbasins according to the establishment’s type.”
The prayer rooms will be religiously required for Islamic worship, according to the new regulations, which the Labour Union of the Labourers of Education and Science (Eğitim-İş) decried as going against the Turkish constitution.
In a statement made on its website, the teachers union accused the Turkish government, led by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, of “abandoning secular, scientific and contemporary education” and replacing it with religious studies and Erdogan AK (Law and Justice) Party propaganda.
“This move is contrary to many laws and pedagogical principles, in particular, the principle of equal standing for every citizen of the state,” said the union in its statement.
It further criticised the measure saying it lays the foundation for the cultivation of a “devout and vindictive generation” and could be used to monitor pupils and educators at a time in Turkey when civil servants face increased scrutiny and thousands have been ousted from their jobs.
As at least 138,000 civil servants, including teachers, academics and other state officials have lost their jobs since a botched coup d’état in July of last year failed to depose President Erdogan, according to Turkey Purge, which tracks the Turkish government’s subsequent and on-going reprisals.
Turkey Purge estimates at least 8,270 academics have lost their jobs and Turkish authorities shut down more than 2,000 schools and universities. It also estimates as many as 110,500 people have been detained and 54,600 people have been arrested.
The country’s education sector, Turkey Purge says, represents 32 percent of all public officials purged from their posts since the coup attempt.
Some educators in Turkey have been on hunger strike in a bid to keep their jobs.
President Erdogan enjoys vastly expanded executive powers after winning a constitutional referendum in April. He has long been criticised for having an authoritative and Islamist agenda.
His AK Party is accused of catering to its highly-devout Muslim base at the expense of the country’s republican and secular founding principles.
Last week, President Erdogan personally approved removing the theory of evolution from secondary school curricula and hundreds of high schools in the country reportedly signed a political declaration by the Turkey High School Students Union refusing to accept encroaching fundamentalism in their classroom education.
“In this context, we are warning the [Ministry of Education]!” read one TLB statement. “You must immediately return from this line. Do not deviate from your primary mission, the national values and the breeding grounds of your country. Otherwise, Turkish youth will determine their own right path.”
Evolution was deemed too controversial and difficult for students to understand. Evolution will only be taught to students who attend university-level courses from the age of 18 or 19.