7 foundations divided up 769 dormitories seized over Gülen links: journalist

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Seven pro-government foundations in Turkey have shared among themselves 769 of 848 student dormitories seized for affiliation with the faith-based Gülen movement since a coup attempt in 2016, journalist Metin Cihan tweeted on Tuesday, citing documents sent by a former member of one of the foundations.

At its peak the Gülen movement, a worldwide civic initiative renowned for its educational activities, operated schools in 160 countries, from Afghanistan to the United States. In Turkey, the network had run thousands of educational facilities, including schools, prep schools, universities and dormitories.

According to Turkey’s Ministry of Education, the government has seized 848 student dormitories, which could accommodate 86,397 students, for affiliation with the Gülen movement, accused by Ankara of orchestrating the 2016 abortive putsch, although it strongly denies any involvement.

The government handed 769 of them over to foundations and associations, according to the ministry.

According to a report by the Peace & Justice platform, citing a notice announcing a public tender published by the government, the minimum cost to construct a 1,000-person capacity dormitory is TL 27 million, meaning that the total value of the 841 student dormitories that were confiscated was TL 2.32 billion ($806 million, as of July 23, 2016).

Citing documents he obtained from a member of the Turkey Youth Foundation (TÜGVA), on whose advisory board President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s son Bilal Erdoğan sits, Cihan tweeted that in addition to the lists showing the appointment of TÜGVA members to posts in the Turkish military, police force and judiciary by way of favoritism, the documents also include lists prepared after a meeting that showed the locations of the dormitories seized from the Gülen movement and the names of the foundations the buildings were allocated to.

Besides TÜGVA, the list included the Service for Youth and Education Foundation of Turkey (TÜRGEV), the Women and Democracy Association (KADEM), the Önder Foundation of Science, Culture and Social Services, the Society for the Dissemination of Science (İlim Yayma Cemiyeti), the Ensar Foundation and the Human and Civilization Movement (İMH).

Cihan said the list showed 1,106 buildings in total, shared among the seven pro-gov’t foundations.

Initially claiming that the documents were fabrications, TÜGVA Chairman Enes Eminoğlu later confirmed the authenticity of the documents in an interview with journalist Cüneyt Özdemir.

Turkish students struggle to find affordable accommodation

After a period of pandemic measures with distance learning, Turkish university students are back to school. However, inflation has resulted in an enormous accommodation crisis, with rising dormitory and apartment rental prices becoming unaffordable for the average student.

Since September, university students all over the country have been protesting high accommodation prices.

Erdoğan, however, dismissed the demands of the students, and police started detaining them as they held vigils in public parks across the country.

The opposition has been criticizing Erdoğan and his government for outsourcing student accommodation facilities to third parties instead of opening state-run institutions for students.

Turkey’s pro-government Islamic groups are keenly interested in running student dormitories, which allows them to reach the younger generation.

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