Saturday, January 10, 2015
Gulen Turkish Schools to close in Tajikistan
Tajikistan has cast doubt over its willingness to continue hosting a network of leading charter schools inspired by U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gülen.
This week Education Minister Nuriddin Saidov suggested that the Tajik government is planning to review the schools’ licenses, which are currently held by a company called Shalola. The schools – often known as “Gülen schools” or “Turkish schools” – adhere to the educational principles of Gülen’s transnational religious movement, which has been praised for its modern interpretation of Islam but also accused of bearing resemblance to a cult.
“The activities of Turkish schools in Tajikistan should be transformed; they need to work on a charitable basis. This is my position. Now we are working on this issue,” Saidov told journalists January 5.
While the schools (numbering 10, according to one count) in Tajikistan were initially free to attend, they now cost $1,000 dollars per year, according to RFE/RL’s Tajik service.
RFE/RL says the schools’ domestic critics tend to associate them with “Pan-Turkism,” while supporters argue that they offer an education far superior to that at Tajikistan’s impoverished state schools, which are among the worst in the former Soviet Union. Instruction is in English, Russian and Turkish. Tajik social media users claim that many officials place their children in the secular Gülen schools.
It is not clear what precisely Shalola and its schools have done to offend Tajikistan’s aid-dependent and graft-prone government.
But the hullabaloo comes as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has stepped up his feud with former ally Gülen, accusing the cleric of operating a “parallel state” inside Turkey. Gülen supporters allegedly spearheaded a corruption investigation into Erdoğan and his allies that the Turkish strongman has struggled to squash.
Turkey’s Daily Sabah newspaper, which vocally supports Erdoğan, has revelled in the controversy.
Sabah – which often maligns the Gülen movement – wrote on January 7 that the schools’ licenses would be “discontinued” and that the education minister had called the schools “shadowy.” That comment does not appear in the Tajik news reports.
It would not be the first time the school network has come under attack in authoritarian Central Asia. According to a 2014 report by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the movement has inspired 10 schools in Tajikistan, 30 in Kazakhstan, and 15 in Kyrgyzstan. Turkmenistan only has two Gülen-inspired schools, after eight were closed during a “reform” in 2011. Uzbekistan closed down its Gülen schools in 2001 when Tashkent’s relations with Ankara went south, Carnegie notes.
aidov Nuriddin Saidovich, Tajikistan's minister of education and science, announced that they will not extend the agreement they had made with the Gülen Movement over permission to operate schools in the country, since they consider the mission of the schools belonging to the group as "shadowy."
According to the local press, an official from the ministry, Rohimjon Saidov, also said there will be an end to the agreement between the Gülen Movement and the Tajik government over the schools they run in the region. Saidov added that the deal made with the education institutions in question expires in 2015 and that the country will no longer extend it.
In previous statements, Saidov had said that the issue regarding the status of the schools, which the Turkish government deems as an extension of the Gülen Movement organization in Tajikistan, was being discussed with Tajik President Emomalii Rahmon.
"The Gülen schools' mission is shadowy," Saidov was quoted as saying, adding that the Tajik government will not grant the schools a license unless they come to the conclusion that they had "humane purposes."
"The purposes of the schools will be reviewed," Saidov had previously said.
There are currently 10 schools in Tajikistan run by the movement. The first school affiliated with the group was opened in the country in 1992. For the last decade, the purposes of the schools have become a hot debate in the Turkish government. There have been numerous demands for their closure by Ankara.
The irregularities and offenses that the movement is allegedly involved in began unsettling countries around the world where there are dozens of schools owned by the movement. The members of the movement, who are currently accused of attempting to oust the government after orchestrating the Dec. 17 and Dec. 25 operations by using their alleged power within the police and judiciary, has become a matter of unease among the officials of countries that permit the operation of the schools in their lands. The group's alleged purpose of expanding their area of influence to serve their own benefit has gradually become public knowledge as a result of Turkish top officials' ongoing struggle with the "parallel structure," a term used for members of the Gülen Movement in key government institutions.
The issue has also led to a loss of trust for the schools by both the Turkish society and international circles. This year has seen a sharp drop in the number of students attending the schools across Turkey's 81 provinces with many families transferring their children to other private and public schools. Then Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had called on families to stop enrolling their children in Gülen schools following the surfacing of a string of scandals involving the movement, which is accused of running a "parallel structure" through its members in the judiciary and law enforcement.
Azerbaijan's Ministry of Taxes announced in late April that they had detected tax irregularities in Çağ Educational Institutions, a network of schools operated by the Gülen Movement. In a statement, ministry officials said a tax probe on the schools in October and November of 2013 found a series of tax irregularities and the company was fined. Çağ Educational Institutions appealed the fine and the issue has now been brought before the court. The ministry's statement did not disclose the amount or nature of irregularities citing the ongoing legal process. The company operates 13 prep schools in Azerbaijan.
The Gülen Movement, led by Fethullah Gülen, has over 140 private schools and charity organizations around the world including the U.S., Europe, Asia and Africa. It has been accused of infiltrating state institutions to gain control of state mechanisms, wiretapping, forgery of official documents and spying. According to a written statement sent to the court for the issuance of an arrest warrant for Gülen, it was written that the Gülen Movement has taken steps counter to the laws and regulations of media, economy and bureaucracy