Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will make a five-day official tour of four African countries — Algeria, Mauritania, Senegal and Mali — starting Feb. 26, with the faith-based Gülen movement among the top issues for discussion, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported on Sunday.
According to the report, activities of the Gülen movement in Algeria will be discussed during the first stop on Erdoğan’s Africa tour.
A statement from the Presidential Office on Saturday said Erdoğan’s visit to Algeria will be the second Turkish presidential trip to the country, while he will pay Turkey’s first presidential visits to Mauritania and Mali.
Erdoğan in December toured the three African countries of Sudan, Chad and Tunisia.
Turkey has been increasing the pressure on African countries for the closure of schools run by people linked to the Gülen movement.
Turkish Education Minister İsmet Yılmaz in September called on the ambassadors of African countries to ask their governments to close schools affiliated with the movement.
A military coup attempt in Turkey on July 15, 2016 killed 249 people and wounded more than a thousand others. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with President Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.
Fethullah Gülen, whose views inspired the movement, strongly denied having any role in the failed coup and called for an international investigation into it, but Erdoğan and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.
Erdoğan also launched a witch-hunt against Gülen followers worldwide, asking several countries to close down Gülen-affiliated schools and institutions as well as to detain and extradite teachers, businessmen and their families who sympathize with the movement.
The state-run Maarif Foundation, which was established by the government in 2016, has signed memorandums of understanding with 26 countries in Africa to take control of schools belonging to Gülen movement followers.
“We have signed protocols with 26 countries in Africa, and 16 of them have so far transferred the schools. We are continuing to provide education to 8,900 students,” said Hasan Yavuz, a board member of the Maarif Foundation, on Jan. 27.
The Gülen movement has many schools and universities set up in more than 160 countries.
According to Anadolu, 30 African countries have handed over Gülen movement schools to Maarif or closed them down at Ankara’s request.
The Maarif Foundation is claimed to have been established to spread President Erdoğan’s Islamist ideology abroad.
“Erdoğan posits himself to be the caliph, the leader of all Muslims in the world, and sees the Maarif Foundation as a tool in his investment efforts to reach out to non-Turkish Muslim groups,” wrote Turkish Minute columnist Abdullah Bozkurt.
A total of 62,895 people were detained in 2017 as part of investigations into the movement, according to Interior Ministry reports.
Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu on Jan. 5 said 48,305 people were jailed in 2017 alone over Gülen movement links.
Soylu said on Dec. 12 that 55,665 people have been jailed and 234,419 passports have been revoked as part of investigations into the movement since the failed coup.
On Nov. 16 Soylu had said eight holdings and 1,020 companies were seized as part of operations against the movement.
The Justice Ministry announced on July 13 that 169,013 people have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.
Turkey has suspended or dismissed more than 150,000 judges, teachers, police and other civil servants since July 15, 2016 through government decrees issued as part of an ongoing state of emergency declared after the coup attempt.