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Schools Close, Teachers Leave Turkey’s Kurdish Regions

students in turkey's southeastern region

The article below was originally published by Rudaw on January 7th, 2016.

More than 150,000 schoolchildren have stayed home amid an escalation of violence in Turkey’s Kurdish southeast, which in turn has pushed over 3,000 teachers to leave the area in the last two weeks, a local union official said.

Forced Curfews in Turkey

“There are still curfews in Silopi, Nooseibin and some neighborhoods in Diyarbakir. We ask for the protection of our children and their right to go to school,” said Cancel Goven, head of the Anadolu Education Union in Diyarbakir.

He was speaking to Rudaw in a phone interview from the city of Diyarbakir, where bloody clashes have taken place between the army and guerrillas of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) since July last year.

Over 200 people have been killed in clashes after a two-year peace agreement collapsed following an inconclusive parliament election in June 2015.

The government has extended the curfew over the past two months to include the cities of Cezire, Nooseibin, Silopi and Kerboran and some areas in the provincial capital of Diyarbakir.

Government Asks Teachers To Leave

Most of the teachers in the area come from other parts of Turkey. Two out of every three teachers in Silopi are from western parts of the country, according to Goven.

Earlier in December, the ministry of education asked over 3,000 teachers to travel back to their homes, away from the violence in the Kurdish areas, Goven said. “Most of them have stayed home and some said they would never return,” he said.

Kurdish Schoolchildren Left Behind

According to the education ministry, over 164,000 schoolchildren and 4,000 teachers live in the areas where clashes have taken place almost daily. The situation is most critical in Silopi, where about 87,000 students have been affected by the curfews.

“Some strategic areas in Silopi are in the hands of the PKK and because of the curfew we have only limited knowledge about what is taking place in the city,” said Mustafa Tashli, who is a teacher In Silopi but has not been able to work for weeks now.

“Locals say the army has turned some of the schools into their bases,” Tashli told Rudaw by phone from Silopi.

He said most people had left the area for nearby villages, with over half of the residents now staying outside of Silopi, a city with a population of 90,000.“Sending teachers away from this area and preventing children to go to school will only benefit terror,” said Usman Behcet, who is the director of the Active Item Sen group in Diyarbakir.

“This will supply the PKK with new recruits,” Behcet warned.

[To read more, visit Rudaw]

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