Turkish Police resorted to using water cannons to break up the crowds protesting the growing influence of religion in classrooms.
Education has become the latest focal point between President Tayyip Erdogan and secularist Turkish citizens who believe he is trying to sneak “Islamization” into the state.
Riot police came out to calm the crowds of students and teachers who had gathered in the center of the city during the school day in order to protest the government’s stance on education religion. At least one person was led away by security officers in plain clothes.
The protesters were there because of a recent movement to recreate parts of regular schools in order to house students from “Imam Hatip” religious schools, where boys and girls are taught separately. Since AKP came to power in 2002, student enrollment in these religious schools has gone up from 65,000 to around 1 million.
Critics of the president believe that this is happening in order to create an focus on Islam in the education system, to help realize his goal of creating “pious generations.”
“Education is an ideological tool,” said Sakine Esen Yilmaz, secretary-general of the left-leaning Education and Science Laborer’s Union. “It is (now) being used to raise an obedient generation that will serve the government.”
Students across the country are required to take a religion course while in school. While the government maintains its view that the courses offer a glimpse into all faiths, critics believe the courses are dominated by Sunni Islam teachings.
The government has recently become more relaxed concerning a headscarf ban, while at the same time increasing the number of religious schools and classrooms across the country. Although the government has become more relaxed concerning its headscarf policy, it has also banned tattoos, body piercings and dyed hair at schools.
Thousands of protesters marched in multiple cities around the country to advocate for a secular and science-based education system. They were met with water cannons in the cities of Izmir and Ankara, used by police in an effort to disperse the groups of protesters.
The protest was led by a teachers union, as well as members of the minority Alevi community.
In Istanbul, at least 10 people were detained by police. According to one witness, hundreds of people, mostly college students, joined the protest in the city.
Other reports found at least 10 people detained across five cities for their involvement in planning the protest.
The country had been condemned in 2013 for suppressing anti-government protests using brutal methods. Hundreds of thousands of people attended the protests at that time.