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Kyrgyzstan Rebuffs Turkish Takeover of Gulen Schools

Officials tell Ankara’s ambassador not to meddle and deny reports Gulen followers may soon be deported.

13 September 2018

Turkey’s attempt to have 13 suspected followers of the U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen deported from Kyrgyzstan is meeting opposition in Bishkek.

 

During Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s visit to Kyrgyzstan in early September, the Turkish delegation handed Kyrgyz authorities a list of 130 suspected Gulen followers and demanded the extradition of 13 people, the Turkish daily Hurriyet reported.

 

Ankara accuses Gulen followers of fomenting the failed 2016 coup attempt in Turkey. Gulen-affiliated groups run hundreds of private schools in more than 100 countries, offering a curriculum heavy on science and technology mixed with Turkish studies. Erdogan’s AKP party, once on friendly terms with Gulen, accuses him of running a “dark state” aimed at seizing control of Turkey.

 

Media reports about the supposed transfer of the 130 people on the list to Turkey are not true, local news site 24.kg cites the head of the Foreign Ministry’s information department, Muratbek Azymbakiyev, as saying.

 

Azymbakiyev also denied Turkish Ambassador Cengiz Kamil Firat’s statement that a Turkish government foundation would be taking over several schools previously run by a Gulen-affiliated group, Eurasianet.org reports.

 

Kyrgyz authorities “rebranded” the schools in 2016 under Turkish pressure after the coup attempt, Eurasianet writes, adding that these Sapat schools, as they are now known, are among the best in the country.

 

The Foreign Ministry told Firat Tuesday that “at present all Sapat schools function in the territory of the Kyrgyz Republic in full compliance with the current legislation of the republic” and that their transfer to the Turkish Maarif Foundation “is out of [the] question,” 24.kg quotes Azymbakiyev as saying.

 

Under Erdogan, who since his re-election in June wields expanded powers acquired through a referendum last year, Turkey has used its political and economic sway to close down many Gulen schools located abroad and to have his followers deported to Turkey.

 

Turkey has brought home more than 100 Gulenist “traitors” since the failed coup, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told CNN’s Turkish channel in July, Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency reported. According to Anadolu, Gulen and his organization “orchestrated” the attempt to overthrow Erdogan’s government, in which some 250 people died and more than 2,000 were injured.

 

Kyrgyzstan first day of schoolKyrgyzstani children dress up on the first day of a new school year. Photo by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Robert Barnett/Wikimedia Commons

 

  • Ankara’s anti-Gulen campaign began well before the coup attempt. Close ally Azerbaijan began evicting Gulenists from schools in 2014, Eurasianet notes. Turkmenistan has also taken action against Gulenists.

 

  • Moldova deported the director and six staff members of a Gulenist school to Turkey on 6 September. Unconfirmed news reports said Moldova’s security service cooperated with Turkey’s National Intelligence Directorate in the operation, Turkish pro-government Daily Sabah reported.

 

  • A similar raid on Gulenist educators in Kosovo last March brought an angry reaction from Kosovo’s leadership. Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj reportedly said the six Turkish nationals “were not deported, they were stolen,” and President Hashim Thaci fired the interior minister and intelligence chief over the issue, Haaretz writes.

 

  • According to an  Anadolu report referenced by the Stockholm Center for Freedom, the Maarif Foundation has taken over 76 schools affiliated with the Gulen movement in Africa and has recently opened 32 new schools in 11 countries from the United States to Afghanistan.

Compiled by Ky Krauthamer

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