Turkey has banned academics from leaving the country and urged those overseas to come home in its latest crackdown on education after a military coup failed to remove Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan from office. Turkey's High Board of Education announced the ban Wednesday but provided no other details.
"It is a temporary measure that we were compelled to take due to the flight risk of alleged accomplices of coup plotters in universities," a Turkish official, who asked to remain anonymous, told Al Jazeera Wednesday. "Universities have always been crucial for military juntas in Turkey, and certain individuals are believed to be in contact with cells within the military."
National education officials announced this week that the board had ordered the resignation of 1,577 deans representing every university in Turkey. The board also revoked the licenses of 21,000 teachers at private schools, Reuters reported.
Long before the coup, Turkey already ranked low in global education rankings. Only 18 percent of Turks pursue a college degree. The average among Economic Development and Cooperation, or OECD countries such as Brazil, the United States, Mexico and Portugal, is 40 percent.
Turkey's government has suspended, fired or arrested about 50,000 people who have been linked to the attempted coup against Erdogan. He has accused Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish scholar living in exile in Pennsylvania, of organizing the military attack last week. Many of the people arrested face charges of "attempting to overthrow the government of the Turkish Republic using force and violence or attempting to completely or partially hinder its function," the Hurriyet Daily News reported.
Human rights activists have expressed concern that Erdogan's government will use the coup to silence his enemies and critics.
"The coup attempt was an appalling, unacceptable assault on Turkey's constitutional order,” Mark P. Lagon, president of the international watchdog Freedom House, said in a statement Monday. “Respect for due process and the rule of law are absolutely essential if Turkey is to avoid falling deeper into civil conflict. We urge the government of Turkey to unite the country behind respect for its democratic, constitutional institutions rather than respond to the attempted coup with indiscriminate settling of scores.”