Apart from establishing most successful educational institutions in Nigeria, the Hizmet Movement, which is also referred to as Gulen Movement, has been in the fore-front in propagating modern face of Islam, while at the same time building bridges of peace through interfaith dialogue.
Turkish engagement with Southern Africa will not be without challenges. The success of this engagement will depend on the Turkish attitude towards the Hizmet Movement. If Turkey decides to tackle the Hizmet Movement head on as it has done in Turkey and in other countries, it will risk alienation in South Africa and the wider region. The Hizmet Movement is generally popular in Southern Africa, with long standing ties to civil society and the political elite.
Mrs. Osuji said Hizmet Movement schools, otherwise known as Turkish schools, are contributing to the development of education in Nigeria and other African countries. She urged African governments to resist any plot by the Turkish government to undermine their sovereignties and respectability by accepting its disguised order to hand over the Turkish schools to Maarif Foundation.
I will start on high-note. The Hizmet movement is not a cult. The participants of the Hizmet movement are not terrorist. The Hizmet movement philosophy does not encourage any form of violence, let alone coup plotting. The Hizmet movement is anchored on love, tolerance, and peaceful co-existence.
While critics say that Gülen is at best a cult figure, he is considered by many the legitimate spiritual leader of an Islamic movement that is focused on humanitarian service – hence the common name Hizmet – as well as interfaith dialogue and education.
Helton Silva Malambane, a software developer from Mozambique who previously worked with the now-shut-down Fatih University, was detained by police at his residence in İstanbul over links to the Gülen movement, whose sympathizers the government accuses of masterminding a failed coup attempt on July 15. Twenty-seven-year-old Malambane was detained after police received anonymous tips about him.
The recent unjustified arrest, detention, traumatization and subsequent release of 50 Nigerian students in Turkey by that country’s government must rank as a most unfortunate low in the Nigerian – Turkish relations. Seen in context, it constitutes an instance of unjustified victimization of innocent foreigners, out of misplaced grudge by a government that had no cause for such act of indiscretion.
Nigerian students studying in Turkey have been detained in airports after being interrogated like criminals. About 50 of them were detained in Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport for 11 hours; some were deported, even though they were bona fide students who were yet to complete their studies.
According to Dabiri-Erewa: “The Federal Government is taking the detention of Nigerian students by Turkish authorities seriously. It seems that Turkey is trying to get at Nigeria for our failure to close down the 17 schools they requested. The government did not close down these schools because their owners and managers, who are private people have not breached Nigerian laws.”
Nigerian students in Turkey say that the Turkish government has declared a war on them and that they feel targeted, therefore they stay in hiding for fear of being arrested or deported. “We are scared of leaving our rooms for fear of being arrested and charged with terrorism, or deported. There is a man-hunt for Nigerian students in Turkey,” a student told The Cable.
No fewer than 50 Nigerians attending private schools in Turkey, including Fatih University, were recently deported by that country after the coup attempt. Nigeria had ignored calls by the Turkish government to close down 17 Turkish schools in the country. The Turkish government alleged that the schools were linked to Fethullah Gülen.
Nigerian lawmakers have urged the Turkish government to apologise for arresting and deporting dozens of Nigerian students. The majority of the youths attended the Fatih University, which is among thousands of educational buildings Turkey has shut down in a crackdown following the failed coup.