Three teachers from Afghan-Turk Schools who were detained on Tuesday by the Afghan National Directorate of Security (NDS) have been released, according to the Kabul-based Ariana News, citing government sources who spoke on condition of anonymity.
One Afghan and three Turkish teachers linked to the faith-based Gülen movement were detained by Afghan intelligence officials on Tuesday, Reuters had reported.
The action sparked protests among students and teachers of Afghan-Turk Schools, who sent a delegation to the Attorney General’s office on Saturday to file a complaint about the “illegal” action of the security forces against the school.
“It would be treason against the nation if the teachers were not released and were handed over to the Turkish government,” said Fazi Ahmad Manawi, a member of the delegation, according to Ariana News.
Two of the teachers are said to have applied for asylum in the UN office in Kabul.
The move against Afghan Turk CAG Educational NGO (ATCE), the organization that runs the schools, appeared to be part of a witch-hunt being waged on followers of Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, accused by the Turkish government of masterminding a coup attempt in July 2016.
The ATCE, which says it is an independent organization, runs schools in several cities including the capital, Kabul, Mazar-i-Sharif, Kandahar and Herat and has been in Afghanistan since 1995.
“Around 7 am, four of our teachers traveling in two different cars were picked up by [Afghan intelligence],” said ATCE Chairman Numan Erdoğan.
Other intelligence officials later went to the group’s girls school nearby looking for another teacher, he said.
He said the men presented themselves as members of the NDS, Afghanistan’s intelligence agency, according to Reuters.
In March Afghanistan ordered the schools be transferred to a foundation approved by Ankara.
Gülen, a former ally of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan who now lives in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania, promotes a moderate form of Islam, supporting inter-faith communication and Western-style education and inspiring schools in various parts of the world.
He and the group he inspired have denied any involvement in the failed coup attempt of 2016.
On Dec. 13 the US-based Advocates of Silenced Turkey issued a statement concerning the detained teachers, saying the operation against the ATCE is part of a Turkish campaign targeting the followers of Fethullah Gülen and that “we strongly ask the government of Afghanistan to step back and release the teachers immediately. We also invite all international organizations and everyone caring about human rights and fundamental freedoms to speak out to create awareness and also to take urgent action against such an abduction towards the teachers as it violates many human rights enshrined by international human rights law. [The] number of cases of illegal abductions committed at the request of the Turkish government have been increasing day by day. The situation is likely to get worse if we do not protect the victims. Therefore, we lastly urge President Erdogan to stop resorting to illegal ways to [clamp down on] innocent people.”