Turkey has reportedly suspended more than 10,000 teachers over suspected links to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militant group following a similar crackdown on education staff in the wake of an abortive coup.
A Turkish official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Thursday that the teachers were “temporarily suspended – placed on paid leave – pending formal investigation.”
The state-run Anadolu news agency said the Education Ministry suspected that an estimated 11,500 teachers were involved in activities “in support of the separatist terrorist organization and its affiliates.”
The report said the number could rise to 14,000 as a result of a joint investigation by the ministry and the offices of local governors was still continuing.
Turkey has about 850,000 teachers and its new school year begins next week.
This is while the government has already dismissed nearly 70,000 people from their positions in public institutions and the military over suspected links to Fethullah Gulen, a US-based opposition cleric accused by Ankara of orchestrating the failed coup on July 15.
Turkey has launched a military campaign against the PKK in the Kurdish-dominated provinces over the past year.
The military says it has killed thousands of PKK militants during the clashes in the southeast, but pro-Kurdish political parties and rights groups say most of those killed have been civilians.
In another development on Thursday, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the removal of civil servants with links to Kurdish militants is a key element of Turkey’s massive fight against the PKK.
He told provincial governors in Ankara that steps were being taken to purge public institutions of PKK supporters, adding that Turkey is conducting the largest operation in its history against the militant group.
The Turkish leader also defended an ongoing military intervention into the Syrian territory, which Ankara says is aimed at countering both Syrian Kurdish militants and the Daesh terror group.