Erdoğan orders shutdown of Istanbul university linked to former ally Davutoğlu

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has ordered the closure of an Istanbul university linked to former ally and opposition Future Party leader Ahmet Davutoğlu, according to a decree published on Tuesday.

Davutoğlu is one of the founding members of Şehir University, which has been mired in controversy after he parted ways with Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) last year.

Davutoğlu months later formed the breakaway Future Party, in a move that analysts maintain has the potential to challenge the Islamist AKP at the ballot box.

An Erdoğan-signed presidential decree on Monday said "Şehir’s permission to conduct any activities has been withdrawn,” Diken news site reported.

Established in 2008, Şehir was lauded by Turkey’s conservative intellectual circles as an exemplary institution. The university’s assets were frozen late last year after an Istanbul court ruled against it in a dispute over payments with state-owned Halkbank.

In December, the Foundation for Sciences and Arts (BISAV)-owned Şehir’s control was then transferred to another Istanbul university, Marmara, before the state moved to take control of BISAV in January by assigning trustees.

In a press conference on Tuesday, Davutoğlu slammed the decision to close Şehir, accusing Erdoğan of "knowing no bounds in his political ambitions and enmity.’’

"It is President Erdoğan himself who signed off on this presidential decision…’’ T24 news site quoted Davutoğlu as saying.

"Unfortunately there is no explanation for this decision. Everyone knows. Everyone knows that debate over land, the bluff over bank loans and the excuse of delayed payments are all nothing but a sham,’’ the former Erdoğan ally said.

Meanwhile, Turkey’s education watchdog announced on Tuesday that Şehir’s students would be transferred to Marmara University.

"The education and instruction of our students is our priority. We would like for our students to know that we will take all precautions without delay to ensure our student can continue their education under the most appropriate conditions,’’ the Council of Higher Education said in a statement published on its website.

Davutoğlu was once a leading figure in the ruling AKP, serving as foreign minister from 2009 and then as prime minister when Erdoğan moved to the presidency in 2014. He was sidelined after being forced to resign in 2016 due to disputes with the president.