It is abundantly clear to anybody following political events in Turkey over the past few years that Erdogan’s government continues to silence free speech, restrict freedom of expression and abuse the rule of law. This has resulted in journalists being arrested, media channels being closed down and judges jailed. The dictatorial tendencies of Erdogan and his AK Party grow more and more every day. It is somewhat worrying then to learn that Erdogan’s lobby group in the UK, Union of European Turkish Democrats (UETD-UK), held a political conference at a British school in 2014.
British schools are not supposed to allow the promotion of partisan political views on their premises, yet the Petchey Academy (Hackney) allowed UETD-UK to hold a conference which heavily promoted biased political views. The subject of the conference was: “History of military coups and 28th February Post-modern Coup, recent Gezi Park Protests and 17-25 December graft probe”. The rationale for the conference was described as follows:
“As Turkish citizens who reside in Britain, who love their country and nation, we stand up against any sort of tutelage, to protect our Prime Minister and our Government and the will of the public”
Later the Facebook page of UETD-UK announced an additional aim of the conference:
“to protect our “World Leader” Recep Tayyip Erdogan”
The phrase “world leader” to describe Erdogan is used on pro-AKP TV channels around the clock (around 80 percent of the Turkish media are now under the control and influence of AKP). Far from being seen as a world leader, nearly a half of the Turkish population do not support him and even less do outside of Turkey. One of the keynote speaker’s at the conference was Metin Külünk: AK Party Foreign Relations Deputy Chair and Istanbul MP. In his speech he made it clear that AKP did not want to share power with any other party and anybody opposing it would in fact be opposing Turkey itself!
Interestingly, the leader of UETD-UK Mutallip Unleur, is also a Director of Oak Free School Trust. His group attempted to set up two free schools in 2013 but we understand that applications for both were rejected by the Department for Education. He is also a Trustee of Nida Trust which describes itself as an educational charity. Perhaps he is now using his connections in education to further his personal political agenda?
Our main concern is whether it is appropriate for a British school to be leasing its premises to political groups who are spreading heavily biased political views. We will be raising this with the Department for Education and asking them what due diligence schools are required to carry out before they lease their premises to political groups such as UETD-UK. We will also be asking whether Petchey Academy, on this occasion, failed in its duty to stop the promotion of partisan political views. We’ll keep you updated!