We have followed the rapid decline of civil liberties under the authoritarian rule of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in the past few years as well as his empowering of Islamic parties in the once secular state. When Erdogan first ran, he assured Turks that he was committed to the secular traditions and constitution of the country. He then did precisely the opposite in power by chipping away at secular laws, introducing Islamic governing principles, and assuming authoritarian power. After the attempted recent coup, Erdogan has arrested thousands of his opponents. He has suspended civil liberties and shutdown the free media. He has also replaced academics and other professionals with Islamic party stalwarts. Now, we have a chilling story of just how Erdogan’s government has wiped out secular values. Dr. Abuzer Meral, an employee of a private hospital in the Turkish city of Yalova, was fired after merely objecting to mandatory religious studies for children.
When Meral objected to the lessons, teachers reported his views to radical Islamist and pro-AKP daily newspaper Akit. The newspaper then ran an article entitled “What kind of a doctor he is!” The answer is that he is a father who cares about his son and wants his son to be able to choose whether he prays at school. However, according Meral, government officials contacted the school and forced them to fire Meral. Meral announced from his Facebook account that he was fired:
“As of tonight, I have been fired from the hospital I was working. I certainly do not blame them. High-level authorities called them. Eventually, that is a commercial institution. Hundreds of people are living on it. An empire of fear has subjugated everyone. Those who ordered me to be fired from job, and those who threatened me will be called to account. I will apply to all legal actions.”
It is unfortunately part of a long pattern of Erdogan destroying both secular values and human rights in Turkey, a country that was once the very symbol of a new emerging, enlightened government in the Middle East.