The network of [Pak-Turk] of schools came under the media scanner last month, after the Turkish government demanded that Pakistan close down the entire network following the failed army coup to overthrow Turkish President Erdogan. Since then, Erdogan has ordered a ruthless purge and arrest of anyone even suspected of having links with his political rival, Fethullah Gülen, whom Erdogan holds responsible for the coup attempt.
Thailand’s foreign ministry has cautioned against any rush to link four Thailand-based schools to a terrorist organization just because they have a handful of foreign shareholders. “We have been in touch with the embassy to request legally recognised and reliable evidence. But we have not received any additional information to date,” Thai foreign ministry spokesman Sek Wannamethee, said yesterday.
Even with reports of terror threats in Davao City, a Filipino-Turkish educational group pursued their beef-sharing event on Monday, September 12, to celebrate peace and unity in the city. “This event crosses religions and cultures, it is for all to celebrate common understanding,” said ICAD Foundation representative Mustafa Gun.
The situation in Georgia illustrates the challenge for Turkish diplomats. A few days after the July 15 coup attempt, a translation of a TV interview began circulating that featured Yasin Temizkan, Turkey’s consul in the city of Batumi. In the interview, Temizkan urged the Georgian government to close the local Refaiddin Şahin Friendship School, a private institution considered part of the Gülen network. The justification, Temizkan said, was that the school was “serving terrorist groups.”
Zaman school officials and parents yesterday urged the Cambodian government not to shutter the schools as the Turkish Ambassador to Cambodia Ilhan Tug has requested, saying students will ultimately suffer. Officials would also need to consider legal and administrative procedures, and so far, the schools have not violated any Cambodian law or regulation, he said.
Since its inception in India, Hizmet is known for its peace activism, interfaith dialogue and counter-extremism. Operating in the country through interfaith dialogue centres, educational institutions and cultural associations, it is articulating an evolving narrative of peace, pluralism and non-violence based on the spiritual ideas and principles of Gülen’s progressive and dialogic narrative of Sufism, as this research paper also elaborates.
Interestingly, Gulen was once an important ally of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and going by his ideology, comes across as a more moderate figure than Erdogan, who has been pushing an Islamic ideology which has little space for secularism. Till very recently, Erdogan’s policy being criticised for allegedly allowing Turkish territory to be used by terrorists.
PakTurk Schools’ Parent-Teacher Association expressed concern that the government may hand over the school management to “a political entity”. The association has demanded of the government not to make an unwise political move, and investigate if there is anything wrong with their curriculum. “Turkey is a friendly country and we respect its democracy. But we should consider the future of 11,000 students of these schools,” the association expresses.
The Mekong Dialogue Institute (MDI), a Turkish NGO based in Phnom Penh, on Monday denied any links to terrorism, although the organization was inspired by Fethullah Gulen, the man accused by the Turkish government of being behind last month’s failed coup in Turkey.
Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbaev rather quickly defused the problem with Turkey by making a visit to Ankara to meet with President Erdogan. Nazarbaev did not agree to close down the Gulen schools in Kazakhstan, but he did promise to carefully scrutinize those running the schools and those teaching in them.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has bluntly blamed it on the Hizmet movement, Gülen’s initiative for intercultural and interfaith dialogue and education in the country expanding across the world today. But for many immensely impressed by Gülen’s global humanitarian, social and Islam-based peace activism, it remains an obscure question as to how the former ally of his country is now blamed for the coup.
A source privy to the developments told that the Turkish nationals holding managerial designations will now serve as teachers in Pak-Turk schools. Reportedly, a new six-member BoD with complete local representation had been formed to run the affairs of the school.
Pak-Turk International’s Parents and Teachers Association (PTA) on Tuesday stressed against transferring the institutions’ control to other organisations as it will affect the future of its 1500 teachers’ future along with 10,000 students enrolled in 28 schools, colleges. The spokesman urged that if the government found any one from these schools involved in illegal practices, it should take strict action against him.
Schools and educational centres in the Kurdistan Region associated with the Gulen movement have insisted they are a private company operating under the Kurdish Ministry of Education and have no ties to Turkey. “In short, we are a Kurdistan company,” an official at the schools told Rudaw, speaking anonymously. “Our institutions operate under the directives and regulations of the Kurdistan Ministry of Education.”