Thousands raised their opposition in Turkey’s westernmost city of Izmir on Saturday to the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) recent ÇEDES project, which the protestors say aims to create an “ultra-religious, spiteful generation.”
The ÇEDES project, standing for “Çevreme Duyarlıyım Değerlerime Sahip Çıkıyorum”, translates as “I am Sensitive to my Environment, I Stand Up for my Values,” and is increasingly viewed by critics not just as a programme for instilling environmental consciousness but to mould individual behaviour to align with the Turkish government’s conservative expectations, effectively serving as a tool for ideological indoctrination.
The ÇEDES project, a joint initiative by Turkey’s Religious Affairs Directorate, its Education Ministry and its Youth and Sports Ministry, has been criticised for interfering in education. Kadriye Doğan, co-president of the Democratic Alevi Associations, warns that the project risks “creating a religious and spiteful generation.”
Alevi representatives from across the European diaspora recently converged outside the European Parliament to protest against the Islamisation of Turkey’s schools. They argue that the ÇEDES project is transforming schools into mosques and effectively handing over children’s social and moral education to the religious authorities. Initially rolled out in Izmir, the project has been extended to primary school children and will be spread across Turkey.
Gülay Dalkiliç, General Secretary of the British Alevi Federation, explained that ÇEDES impacts all children at state-run schools leaving no choice to opt out. Among others, the demonstrations are attracting secularists and atheists from different backgrounds, highlighting the broad societal implications of the project.
The European Parliament has expressed concern over the increasing influence of the Islamist agenda in Turkey’s public administration, including the education system. This rally in Izmir is the latest move in a campaign that has implications well beyond the Alevi community and concerns the future of Turkey.