Saudi Arabia has decided to shut down 8 campuses of International Turkish Schools in Riyadh, Jeddah, Tabuk, Dammam, Ta’if, Abha, Mecca and Medina following allegations of these schools being involved in radicalizing students and encouraging them in supporting establishment of caliphate in the Muslim world. These schools also encourage the students in becoming admirers of Ottoman caliphate.
According to media reports, Arabia will shut down 8 Turkish schools affiliated with the Ministry of National Education operating in the capital Riyadh and other provinces at the end of the 2020-2021 academic year.
Saudi Education Ministry delivered the decision in a written format to the schools in the northwestern Tabuk, Riyadh, Ta’if and Jeddah provinces.
Saudi officials also visited the Turkish schools in Dammam and Abha provinces to inform school authorities about the decision.
Turkish schools in Mecca and Medina provinces will also be subject to the same decision.
In the decision, the Saudi Education Ministry said, “Activities at the Turkish schools will be terminated at the end of this academic year, facilitation will be provided for students to enroll in the schools of their choice, and school administrations should inform parents about the decision.”
Sources say 2,256 students who are not fluent in Arabic will have difficulty if they continue their education linked to the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Education.
Rampant child abuse in Turkey’s religious schools
Religious schools in Turkey have been hit by a string of sexual abuse scandals in recent years, yet due to links to the ruling party, the crimes are often hushed up.
Islam-focused educational institutions such as state-run Imam Hatip schools have proliferated during the 17-year rule of the Justice and Development Party (AKP), which has worked to instil religious values in Turkey’s youth and funded an explosion in Islamist foundations in the education sector.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who came to prominence in the 1990s as part of an Islamist movement, has often spoken of his aim to raise a “pious generation”. This has led to an explosion in the number of İmam Hatip schools, as well as an increase in the hours of religious education for all students.
Islamic courses are often taught by the staff of religious foundations, which provide dormitories for schoolchildren and have become the stage for many of the sexual abuse scandals.
The latest scandal emerged earlier this month at the Fıkıh-Der religious association in Istanbul’s Umraniye district, where three instructors were accused of sexually abusing more than 20 boarding students.
Mesude Atay, a child psychology scholar at Istanbul’s Okan University, said children were being failed by a system that teaches them to make moral judgements about people based on superficial factors linked to religion, such as whether they pray or fast.
Children are attending compulsory classes in Islam at an age in which they are not necessarily able to understand the abstract concepts involved, Atay said, adding that children would be better served if they received religious education within the family.
Instead, they study at school, and media reports in recent years have shown that they are frequently being exposed to predatory teachers.
The Fıkıh-Der case is the latest example in a long series of sexual abuse incidents uncovered at similar institutions. Time and again, the government address these scandals by trying to sweep them under the carpet.
A vocational high school hushed up a teacher’s rape of a 17-year-old girl. The victim spoke out in 2014, but authorities imposed a broadcast ban.
A 52-year-old imam was arrested in July 2015, accused of sexually abusing three female students at a summer Quran school in the northern province of Bartin.
The next month, Turkish media reported that an imam at the Otpazari Mosque of Afyon in western Turkey had molested two students aged seven and nine. Once again, the reflex response of the authorities was to impose a ban on reporting the incident.
An instructor of a Quranic boarding school in Beypazarı, in central Turkey, was accused of sexually abusing a male student in 2013. The incident was brought to the court in November 2017, but again authorities imposed a broadcast ban on the case.
One of the most troubling abuse scandals took place at a boarding house in Karaman, in central Anatolia. A 54-year-old teacher and a senior member of the Islamist Ensar Foundation was accused of raping and sexually abusing 10 secondary school students at one of its dormitories.
According to the indictment, the assaults took place between 2012 and 2016. The victims said they were from 10 to 12 years old when they were first molested, the BBC reported.
But the foundation, which is known for its close links to Erdoğan and the AKP government, has since continued to receive lucrative government contracts to teach schoolchildren as well as generous funding from municipalities.
Meanwhile, the ruling party continually blocks media reports and attempts to debate the incidents in parliament.