The Nigerian House of Representatives has given the Turkish government a seven-day ultimatum to release 50 Nigerian students who were recently detained in Turkey as part of a government-led crackdown on the faith-based Gülen movement.
On Oct. 1, more than 50 Nigerian students, mainly from Fatih University, were detained by Turkish police at İstanbul Atatürk Airport for allegedly being students of a “terrorist organization.”
The Turkish government recently shut down Fatih University over alleged links to the Gülen movement, a global civil society movement inspired by the views US-based Turkish scholar Fethullah Gülen, who the government accuses of masterminding a failed coup on July 15 in Turkey.
Following the detention of the Nigerian students, members of the House of Representatives warned that Turkish citizens in Nigeria risk indiscriminate arrest in retaliation for the “unjustifiable assault” on the Nigerian students, the Premium Times newspaper reported.
On Tuesday Nigeria’s House of Representatives mandated four of its committees to carry out a thorough investigation into the detention of 50 Nigerian students by Turkish authorities at İstanbul Atatürk Airport.
The mandate to the education, interior, foreign affairs and diaspora committees of the House of Representatives came after Nigerian authorities met with officials from the Turkish Embassy in Abuja on Tuesday over the incident. The committees will also look into a disagreement between the Nigerian and the Turkish governments..
A story published on the Thisday news website on Oct. 1 said that when the students asked why they were being confined, the police said they were students of a “terrorist organization.”
Nigerian representative Solomon Bulus Maren urged the federal government to explore all diplomatic means of rescuing the students and resolving the matter. Maren said the students were being held in a dark room and were sleeping on the bare floor, while others were already sick and without medication due to the conditions in which they are illegally being detained.
The detained students, he said, were forced to sign documents for deportation, pay penalties on the allegation of illegal entry into Turkey, humiliated and abused.
The Gülen movement – an Islamic religious and social organization known also as Hizmet – has private schools and universities in more than 170 countries.
The deportation and arrest of the Nigerian students came months after the Turkish ambassador to Nigeria, Hakan Çakıl, asked Nigeria to close 17 Islamic schools linked to the Gülen movement. The diplomat alleged the schools were being used to recruit terrorists.
The Turkish government labels the Gülen movement as a terrorist organization despite the lack of any terrorist activity on the part of the movement.
Meanwhile, Sola Enikanolaiye, an official at Nigeria’s Foreign Ministry, commented on the demand for closure of the Gülen-linked schools, saying they “are schools that don’t violate Nigerian laws and cannot be shut down with regards to international law.”