On September 6, the Moldovan security services detained first, and then at the end of the day deported from the country seven teachers of the Turkish lyceum network Orizont. As it turned out later, they were taken to Turkey on a special plane – according to lawyers, teachers were imprisoned in several Turkish prisons and cannot yet contact their families who stayed in Moldova.
The network of Moldovan-Turkish lyceums Orizont has operated in Moldova for 24 years and has 5 branches in different cities of the country. Most of the deported teachers have families in Moldova. Three of the expelled employees lived in Moldova for more than 20 years, and their children became citizens of Moldova by birth. All the seven were detained by the SIS either in the workplace or on the way without explaining the reasons and in the presence of stand-by police.
Any of the deported teachers, going to work on September 6, was unlikely to know that they would end this day in prison in their homeland. Their families did not expect this either. The way how the expulsion of the Orizont employees has taken place is beyond doubt a demonstration of the limitless cynicism of the authorities and the unwavering unwillingness of any of the officials to take responsibility for what happened. Moreover, the formal motive for deportation (or expulsion, Chisinau has not determined the specific term in this case) sounds very blurry and does not correspond much to the image of teachers who have worked in Moldova for many years – “connection with the Islamist group and the threat to national security”.
It is already clear today that the Moldovan leadership will incur enormous image costs because of the events of September 6. The right-wing opposition led by Andrei Nastase and Maia Sandu, human rights activists, civic activists and students of the Orizont lyceums, have defended the teachers. The European Union immediately reacted at various levels: European Commissioner Johannes Khan made it clear that he expected the leadership of the Republic of Moldova “to observe the rule of law and established legal procedures”, a group of European deputies demanded that the prime minister and the president of Moldova stop illegal extradition. The European Court of Human Rights has already registered the case of Turkish citizens against Moldova, the court also demanded that Chisinau provide all information about the incident.
At first glance, expulsion of teachers is just another act of authorities’ abuse of the law and world standards in the field of justice and human rights, such “a thing in itself” that does not require explanations and only strengthens the contours of the sad picture of Moldovan reality. However, the questions raise because of both time and the method: why did the government need to deport the Turkish teachers on the eve of the election campaign so unceremoniously, attracting new criticism both from within and outside the country?
It seems that the answer lies precisely in the dimension of the electoral struggle for the parliament as elections will be held in February 2019. And it is on the surface.
It is known for sure that official Ankara links the Orizont network with the movement of the Islamist preacher Fethullah Gulen, who is accused in Turkey of organizing a coup d’état. In May 2017, the Turkish Prime Minister officially asked the Head of the Government of the Republic of Moldova, Pavel Filip, to close the lyceums. Then, there was allegedly not enough evidence, but they were unexpectedly found just before the scheduled visit to Moldova of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The politician has intended to visit the Republic of Moldova since 2014, but each time his visit was postponed. Now the chances for the arrival of the Turkish leader are very high: the restoration of the presidential building in Chisinau was completed that was damaged during the riots of the spring of 2009. Money for repairs – about $ 40 million – was provided by Turkey, and, according to plan, Recep Erdogan and Moldovan President Igor Dodon should open the renovated building.
The version that the expulsion of Turkish teachers is a kind of non-monetary ‘payment’ for the renovation of the presidential administration appeared immediately after the events of September 6. Moreover, Ankara accused Orizont of being involved in an anti-government conspiracy against Erdogan. Both the president and the Moldovan government completely denied the link between the deportation of teachers and the renovation of the presidency, although it was already too late since the version became popular among the people.
In terms of the technology of the political process, this semi-mythical and semi-serious rumor about the payment for the renovation of the presidency is a goal of the Turkish teachers’ expulsion. Erdogan’s visit, if it does take place, will certainly be overshadowed by this, no doubt, sad and revealing story. Relatives of the deported teachers say directly that Chisinau fulfilled the “order of Erdogan”.
Therefore, when Recep Erdogan and Igor Dodon solemnly cut the red ribbon at the entrance to the presidential administration, every indifferent Moldovan citizen will remember that the cost of repairing this building is seven destroyed lives.
It is easy to guess that in the end the story with the Turkish teachers affects the image of Igor Dodon just before the parliamentary elections. Friendship, or at least a good relationship with the strong leaders of foreign countries is one of the components of the image of the Moldovan president as no less strong and in the future the absolute ruler of the country. It’s no secret that Igor Dodon is sincerely proud of his friendship with the tough and charismatic presidents of Russia and Belarus Vladimir Putin and Alexander Lukashenko. It is clear that the Moldovan president would like to see as his friend Recep Erdogan, a controversial but tough patriarchal politician well known outside of Turkey.
Erdogan is having a difficult dialogue with Vladimir Putin as equal. Erdogan strongly argues with the European Union. Erdogan meets with Dodon. Together they open the presidential administration building in Chisinau. The image idyll of the Moldovan president, which is not destined to come true, because everyone remembers that “the price is seven lives destroyed”.
Creating a negative background for the visit of the Turkish president, the pro-European government of Moldova, which, no doubt, made the decision to deport teachers, takes no risks. The executive power, controlled by the Democratic Party, Vlad Plahotniuc, is criticized on all sides – for undemocratic laws, for stalled reforms, for stealing a billion, for a grievous situation in the field of human rights and for much more. Such a ‘dossier’ makes it extremely difficult to build a positive image before elections. But this makes it very easy to ‘spoil’ karma of your potential competitor, taking steps that will inevitably affect the image of not a particular political force, but the entire leadership of Moldova.
Deportation of teachers is just such a step, another attempt to drown President’s rating, which he objectively cannot resist. The more Igor Dodon tries to build his image on the positive foundation, the stronger the government draws him into the vortex of the negative vibe, from which the leader of the socialists finds it increasingly difficult to get out. Negative vibe is the native environment of the Igor Dodon’s opponents, and it is extremely difficult for him to fight it.
Whatever the case, the pre-election struggle, especially in modern Moldova, has never been a simple matter. Ahead there will be many more such scenarios and mutual accusations, the purpose of which is to sink the opponent. At least until February 2019, pre-election battles in the media will come to the forefront, concealing the objective situation in Moldova in the 21st century – a country, where an ordinary day of a schoolteacher may end up in a foreign prison.
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