ISTANBUL (CNN) — Turkey has suspended thousands of teachers over alleged links to a militant Kurdish group, according to sources and state-run news agency Anadolu.
At least 11,285 schoolteachers across the country were suspended over suspected links to a separatist terrorist organization, Anadolu reported Thursday, citing Turkey’s Education Ministry.
That number could reach 14,000 during an investigation conducted in coordination with governors’ offices across the country, Anadolu reported.
Although the ministry did not specify the group, the term “separatist terrorist organization” usually refers to the Kurdistan worker’s party, or PKK.
Later, a senior Turkish official confirmed to CNN that the “separatist organization” is PKK.
“There are more than 850,000 teachers in Turkey. The individuals in question are temporarily suspended, placed on paid leave, pending formal investigation,” the official told CNN. “In this sense, I am not in a position to comment on the specific connection. More broadly, such steps are taken based on concrete evidence such as financial links, recruitment efforts etc.”
Turkey imposed a three-month state of emergency in July after an attempted coup against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. It fired about 50,000 people after that failed coup.
About 21,000 teachers in private institutions had their licenses revoked amid a crackdown on followers of Fethullah Gulen, the cleric blamed by Erdogan for the failed July 15 coup.
Earlier this month, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim vowed to suspend all teachers associated with the PKK.
Speaking in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir, which has been repeatedly hit by PKK attacks, Yildirim said some 14,000 teachers serving in the region were suspected of being linked to terrorism.
The PKK — listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union — resumed its decades-old armed campaign in July last year.
The PKK claim to represent Turkey’s largest ethic group, the Kurds, who make up an estimated 20% of the Turkish population. PKK has been battling the Turkish state off and on for some 30 years.