Birol Akgün, chairman of Turkey’s Maarif Foundation, on Monday said during an online meeting that they have taken over 216 schools affiliated with the faith-based Gülen movement, a worldwide civic initiative inspired by the ideas of Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, in 44 countries, according to local media.
Akgün also stated that the foundation had signed 77 protocols to take over schools linked to the movement in 45 more countries.
“Celebrating its fifth year, our foundation … extended its educational activities to 44 countries in 2021, along with Kyrgyzstan and South Africa,” Akgün said, adding that they aim to increase the number of countries hosting Maarif schools to 50 by the end of this year.
Akgün explained that the foundation has representative offices in 52 countries and that they conduct activities in 67 countries, 44 of which have active Maarif educational institutions, with a total of 354 schools and 41 dormitories hosting nearly 43,000 students.
According to Akgün, 216 of those schools were handed over by their host countries after the foundation proved their links to the Gülen movement.
Maarif, which was established prior to a coup attempt on July 15, 2016 through legislation in the Turkish parliament, has targeted the closure of Gülen-linked educational institutions since the abortive putsch as part of the foreign policy of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), which labels the movement as a terrorist organization and accuses it of orchestrating the failed coup.
Although both Gülen and the members of his faith-based group strongly deny any involvement in the abortive putsch or any terrorist activities, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s AKP has jailed some 96,000 people while investigating a total of 622,646 and detaining 301,932 over alleged links to the movement as part of a massive purge launched under the pretext of an anti-coup fight, according to the latest official figures.