Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Thursday lashed out at teachers in the country protesting against new legislation mandating exams for professional development, calling them “çapulcu,” or looters, the same term he famously used for the Gezi Park protesters of 2013.
“Are you the architects of educational training or those wandering about as looters?” Karar newspaper cited Erdoğan as saying at the at a ceremony marking the appointment of tens of thousands of teachers in Ankara.
A number of teachers unions in the country are protesting a new system introduced by the Education Ministry which divides teachers into three categories of regular, expert and head teacher. According to the new system introduced by the ‘’Teaching Profession Law,’’ teachers wishing to obtain expert certification are required to pass a newly-introduced career exam.
Critics, including opposition politicians, maintain the new system of classification will lead to favouritism and overlook experience, calling for said titles to be granted to teachers based on the number of years they have worked in the educational system.
“We need teachers who interact with our children, not those who roam the streets,” Erdoğan said on Thursday, referring to the ongoing protests.
“Just stop this boycott, he said,” asking the protesters if they are looters, using the word “çapulcu’’.
Erdoğan referred to the Gezi Park protestors as “çapulcu’” during the protests in 2013, the biggest demonstration against his ruling party to date. At least seven people died in the protests, which according to police records were attended by 3 millions.
The term “çapulcu,” which was later adapted by the masses, came to signify the disdain the Turkish leader holds for critics.
Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, who has backed the teachers’ protest, on Thursday condemned Erdoğan for his use of the word.
“Erdoğan, did you call teachers ‘looters’?’’ Kılıçdaroğlu said in a Twitter post, as he called on teachers to unite immediately.
“This (government) will give you nothing. Don’t take the exam,” the CHP leader said, vowing that he would solve the problem soon, in an apparent reference to the elections scheduled for the summer of 2023.