I was kicked out of this school like a dog after seven years during which I was beaten, maltreated and oppressed. Since this offensive treatment, I don’t even talk about my academic life, which lagged four years behind my peers and for which my family had to pay TL 60,000 in compensation [to the military]. The elimination system, in which selected students gain the right to receive an education in military schools and which is mainly shaped and promoted by the current mentality in the military, is nothing more than an ideological stance that emanates from an unjust perception [about people due to their ethnic and religious orientation],” writes Gökberk Ekinci on a blog established by the Platform for Military Students Dismissed from the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK).
Ekinci is one of hundreds of such students who were either forced to quit military school due to pressure from their officers or directly kicked out, starting a new period in their lives filled with problems and disappointment. Turkey’s military schools and academies come to the nation’s agenda frequently with claims of abuse of students at these schools or how the curriculum taught at these schools nourishes military tutelage in the country.
Observers suggest that these schools should be brought under civilian oversight to prevent them from becoming problems. Currently, military schools in Turkey are tied to the force commands, while military academies are tied to the General Staff.
Adnan Tanrıverdi, a retired general, suggested that military schools and academies in Turkey should be linked to the Defense Ministry to ensure that there is civilian oversight over these schools while describing the pressure imposed on some military students as being “inhumane.”
“The military education system needs to be reviewed. These schools need to be under the control of the civilian authority to ensure transparency,” Tanrıverdi told Sunday’s Zaman in a phone interview.
Regarding the case of military students who had to quit school due to pressure from their officers, he said legal action should be taken against the members of the military who bully students and that the expulsion of students should not be made arbitrarily -- evidence should be submitted to court to prove the necessity for an expulsion.
When asked by Sunday’s Zaman whether there was pressure on military students during his years as a student in the military, Tarnıverdi said ultranationalism was considered a threat during those years, and there was pressure on students who were deemed “ultranationalist.” In recent years, Parliament has been receiving a growing number of petitions from families of students in military schools concerning allegations of maltreatment and physical and psychological abuse in military schools.
Families mostly complain that while their sons and a number of other students were ordered to engage in very heavy physical exercise immediately after beginning school and were constantly discriminated against mainly because they came from religious, middle class families, another group of students were given better treatment and allowed to relax.
The families also complain about having to pay a large amount of compensation to the TSK after their sons had to quit school due to pressure. In Turkey, students sign a contract before they begin military school that stipulates, among other things, that they pay compensation to the TSK if they happen to quit school.
Earlier this week, İsmail Aydın, head of a sub-commission established by Parliament’s Petition Commission, which examines the cases of students expelled from military schools, said military schools need to be tied to the Education Ministry, while military academies should be tied to the Higher Education Board (YÖK).
“Due to their current structure, these schools are like a black box. They first need to become transparent. Military schools need to be tied to the Education Ministry, while military academies should be tied to YÖK. When we ask these schools about the allegations of the expelled students, we just get a response of one line that says the allegations do not reflect the facts. Nobody would be willing to admit their mistakes. When we take a look at the personal files of those students, we see some very subjective expressions such as ‘He has a portrait of Atatürk in his home,’ ‘There are beer bottles in his home’ or ‘His mother wears headscarf.’ Opening these schools to civilian oversight and making them transparent will be a very important democratic opening,” Aydın said.
Noting that military students who had to quit school always talk about certain military figures that imposed pressure on them or treated them badly, he said legal action needs to be taken against these military members.
Mesut Ülker, a retired staff colonel, strategist and expert on national security, also supported the tying of military schools to the Education Ministry to ensure the transparency of these schools.
He said problems are more likely to arise at military schools when they have an autonomous structure without any civilian oversight.
However, Ülker told Sunday’s Zaman that he believes the number of students seeing pressure in the military due to their ideological or religious beliefs is less now when compared to the days of the Feb. 28 1997 military intervention thanks to democratization steps taken by Turkey over the past years.
Not only military members and military students but public officials, bureaucrats, members of the judiciary and many others were being classified according to their religious or ideological background during the days of the Feb. 28 coup when the military ousted a coalition government led by a now-defunct conservative party.