School officials to sue the Turkish ambassador for defamation

One of the Zaman international schools in Phnom Penh, which have come under fire from Turkey’s ambassador. KT/Mai Vireak
One of the Zaman international schools in Phnom Penh, which have come under fire from Turkey’s ambassador. KT/Mai Vireak


Date posted: July 29, 2016

In response to statements made by the Turkish ambassador to Cambodia on Monday, officials from the Zaman International School (ZIS) yesterday denied any links with terrorist organizations, saying the ambassador’s claims were unfounded and lacked evidence.

School officials said they wanted to sue the ambassador for defamation.

In an interview with Khmer Times yesterday at his office in the iCON Professional Building in Phnom Penh, Hakan Atasever, the director of public relations for Zaman, said Zaman was a private local company.

As a result, it falls under Cambodian laws and regulations. If Cambodian authorities find his company is guilty of having links with a terrorist organization, then his company must face charges according to the law. Otherwise, his company has the full right to seek legal action against any accusations that are defamatory.

“We are inviting H.E. Ambassador to show the evidence, any court decision and whatever proof he has to blame us, to the public and the authorities. We would like to announce that we will seek our legal rights as this accusation is an attempt to defame our company,” said Mr. Atasever.

When asked why the schools had the same name as the daily Zaman newspaper in Turkey, Mr. Atasever said the school was founded in 1997 by Atilla Yusuf Guleker, a former journalist who worked at that paper, the largest opposition newspaper in Turkey before the government seized control in March this year.

“As Mr. Atilla was a former journalist working for Zaman newspaper, so he was very happy to choose this name for the school too. But at that time, Zaman newspaper was neutral in Turkey. However, our school could change its name to whatever the Cambodian government wants,” said Mr. Atasever.

According to a statement issued by Zaman yesterday, the company condemned the attempted coup in Turkey last week. The company strongly supports democratic values – free and fair elections were the only way to form a government, it said.

The statement added that although the founders of ZIS were spiritually motivated by Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, he had never had any link with the school.

“The founders of Zaman International School started with the spiritual motivation of Mr. Fethullah Gulen. However, Mr. Gulen has never had any official link, ownership or involvement in the school administration, he has never taken a part in any sort of decision-making process in forming or running the schools,” added the letter.

According to ZIS, its schools are certified by Cambodia’s Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport. It has also been registered as a private company with the Ministry of Commerce. It said its schools are Cambodian and inspected regularly by Education Ministry officials.

The statement also highlighted the fact that the schools were launched in the presence of high-ranking government officials from Turkey. Those officials are still members of the current Turkish government.

The schools had never had a problem with the Turkish government until Monday’s press conference organized by the Turkish embassy, Mr. Atasever said.

Chan Virak, a former student at Zaman University, who is now working at Zaman’s administration office in the iCON Professional Building, said the schools had helped many Cambodians get a good education, and the schools were not affiliated with any religion.

“I went to Zaman schools from high school to university. I never heard about any religion over there. They just taught us English and skills we liked to learn. However, it’s up to the government to find out the truth in order to make the right decision to close the schools or not,” said Mr. Virak

Ms. Shorng, a grade-12 student at Zaman’s high school near the Tonle Bassac river, said she liked the school for its discipline and had never heard about any religion at her school.

“In terms of discipline, it’s really good, but for the school’s curriculum, it’s just like other schools. We never heard about any religion at our school besides the Turkish language, which was an option for us to learn if we wanted,” said Ms. Shorng.

Khmer Times was unable to reach the spokesman for the Ministry of Education for comment.

In a press conference at Turkey’s embassy in Phnom Penh on Monday, Ilhan Tug, Turkey’s ambassador to Cambodia, claimed ZIS was related to the group that recently led the failed coup to overthrow the democratically elected government in Turkey.

For this reason, he asked the Cambodian government to close the school as soon as possible.

“We have been in close contact with the Cambodian government and also the members of the parliament regarding the Zaman school in Cambodia. And we have requested all kind of support to be halted,” said the ambassador. “We would also like to see this Zaman group in Cambodia end all its activities in the near future.”

Mr. Tug also said that the Zaman group had been active in Cambodia since 1993, running schools ranging from kindergarten to university.
Zaman means “time” or “era” in Turkish. The daily newspaper was created in 1986 and originally supported the Justice and Development Party (AKP).

But later, Zaman became increasingly critical of the AKP and its leader, Mr. Erdogan, who in turn accused Zaman of supporting the Hizmet movement of Mr. Gulen. It is a movement the Turkish government accuses of attempting to establish a parallel state in the country.

According to an online source, the Hizmet movement is a liberal Islamic transnational religious and social movement led by Mr. Gulen, an Islamic theologian and preacher now living in the US. The movement is labeled by the ruling AKP as a terrorist organization.

The movement has attracted supporters in Turkey as well as in Central Asia and other parts of the world. It is active in the field of education with private schools and universities in more than 180 countries, in the fields of media, finance and health.

Source: Khmer Times , July 20, 2016


Related News

U.S. Judge Tosses Suit Against Reclusive Muslim Cleric

Turkey’s government funded the civil suit against Fethullah Gulen as part of a crackdown on the cleric and his movement by PresidentRecep Erdogan. A federal judge on Wednesday dismissed a lawsuit alleging that a reclusive Muslim cleric in Pennsylvania orchestrated human rights abuses in his native Turkey, ruling the claims didn’t belong in U.S. courts.

Iftar at Afghan-Turkish Schools

Turkish schools in Afghanistan, which are running 32 institutions in 6 providences with 7,000 students, brought Afghan people and Turkish people together with an iftar dinner that they organized.

Acting in ‘Selam’ a once-in-a-lifetime experience for actors

The new Turkish movie “Selam,” which opened in movie theaters last Friday, tells the stories of three idealistic teachers who have been appointed to teach at Turkish schools in three different countries.  Burçin Abdullah plays Zehra, who has been appointed to teach at a school in Kabul. Yunus Emre Yıldırımer plays Harun, Zehra’s colleague and […]

Indonesia and Turkey: Similar but Different

On the other side, there is one very important thing that Indonesia must avoid. The Turkish government has been inching ever closer to becoming an Islamist nation, abandoning its secularity that has acted as the foundation of modern Turkey until now. The government’s power is also getting increasingly concentrated in the hands of the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Gülen’s lawyer: Pro-gov’t columnist’s claims on religious directorate ‘disgusting scenario’

A lawyer representing Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen has strongly denied allegations by a pro-government columnist who argued that the Gülen movement is behind recent “attacks” on the Religious Affairs Directorate, saying the baseless claims are a part of a “disgusting scenario to divide the nation.”

Gülen criticizes remarks insulting members of Hizmet movement

Fethullah Gülen has strongly criticized remarks that insulted members of the Hizmet movement, saying that these kind of behavior won’t solve problems. Gülen didn’t directly mention Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s name, but it was obvious that he was responding to the prime minister’s remarks on Friday, when he said the government will “come down to your caverns and tear you to shreds.”

Latest News

Turkish Food Festival seeks to teach Greenville about Turkey’s culture and cuisine

Chestnut Retreat Center offers a look inside their Saylorsburg facility and its mission

Erdoğan’s overarching purge is not a road accident

Is Gulen the scapegoat of Ankara crisis?

Post-coup purge in Turkey leaves children parentless after mother and father are put behind bars

Turkey’s post-coup purge and persecution makes no exception for children

Fethullah Gülen’s Message of Condolences for the Beirut Explosion

Turkish Cultural Center Hosts Food Drive

Hizmet movement demonized by Erdogan regime but loved abroad

In Case You Missed It

‘Turkish people not silly to believe slanderous news about Gülen’

Alevi leader Kenanoğlu: Discrimination against Alevis increased in 2013

Gülen calls for support to a [presidential] candidate with true integrity

Scintillating inventions by Northern Iraqi students

Pacifica Institute and Redmond United Methodist come together for Interfaith dinner

Journalists and Writers Foundation to hold peace conference at UN

Fuat Avni claims Gülen-inspired schools to be closed due to fabricated auditing standards

Copyright 2020 Hizmet News