Turkey’s Maarif Foundation Chairman Birol Akgün has revealed that 97 schools affiliated with the faith-based Gülen movement in the non-Western world have been transferred to the foundation since its establishment in June 2016, Daily Sabah reported.
Transferring such schools to Maarif is not the only objective, however, Akgün said. The foundation also works to have ownership of the schools changed through “nationalization by the country they’re located in or transferring control to a third party.”
Akgün said that by these means, 60 percent of the 450 schools in non-Western countries have been “liberated” from the Gülen movement, which has more than 700 schools around the world.
“South Africa and Zambia are expected to be the next countries that cooperate with Turkey and the Maarif Foundation,” Akgün said.
Maarif was established prior to a coup attempt on July 15, 2016, through legislation in the Turkish parliament, and after the abortive putsch, it targeted the closure of Gülen-linked educational institutions as part of Turkish foreign policy since the government accuses the Gülen movement of orchestrating the failed coup and launches a crackdown against the movement.
The foundation has also opened 140 schools in 25 countries and signed protocols with 28 countries to take over Gülen-affiliated schools.
Akgün claimed that many Balkan and African countries decided to engage in talks with the foundation to transfer schools after the parliamentary and presidential elections of June 24, from which President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan emerged victorious once again.
“We observe this public pressure in the US, Albania, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Kyrgyzstan as well as in South America, Africa and Asia,” he said.
He claimed Gülen-linked schools have lost their attractiveness, saying: “Graduates of these schools aren’t accepted by Turkey; not for education, not for employment, not for residence. So people have no reason to send their children to such schools.”
The Maarif Foundation has been planning to open cultural centers in Western countries to serve Turkish nationals and migrants with Turkish roots.
“Meanwhile, it’s not realistic to expect an organization that has been active abroad for 30 years to be completely eliminated within a year or two,” Akgün told Daily Sabah.