Turkey’s Maarif Foundation now controls 191 schools taken over from the Gülen movement in 21 countries, the foundation’s president, Birol Akgün, told the Hürriyet Daily News on Monday.
“Together with the Foreign Ministry, we have been conducting talks with 95 countries. Some have decided to hand them over to us, and 191 schools in 21 countries are currently under our jurisdiction,” Akgün said, referring to schools that were opened by the faith-based Gülen movement.
“But it does not mean those countries that have not handed them over have done nothing. Some have closed them; others have taken them under the authority of their own education ministries, and others handed them over to third parties. Some governments have expelled the staff of these schools who were considered threats by Turkey.”
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 is conducting a crackdown on the movement globally.
“In the non-Western world 70 percent of the schools are no longer under [Gülen movement] control,” Akgün claimed.
Maarif reportedly uses various techniques to convince countries to do away with schools from the movement.
“If [Gülen-linked] schools are not closed down, we tell them the graduates from these schools cannot come to Turkey to study,” Akgün said. “The students who are graduates of foundation schools can take the university exams in Turkey and study in Turkish universities without paying any additional fees, just like Turkish citizens,” he added.
The Gülen movement had more than 700 schools around the world before the failed coup in 2016.