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Brazilian delegation to visit Turkey over alleged religious indoctrination of indigenous children: report

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A delegation of Brazilian parliamentarians is set to visit Turkey to investigate allegations of religious indoctrination and illegal transportation of children from Brazil’s Amazon region to Turkish boarding schools, the Artı Gerçek news website reported on Thursday.

Reports suggest that an operation led by Abdulhakim Tokdemir and his team, allegedly affiliated with the Sūlaymanites religious order, a group based in Turkey inspired by the late cleric Süleyman Hilmi Tunahan and said to have 2 million followers, targeted children from impoverished families in the Amazon. These children were allegedly provided religious education in Brazil before being moved to Süleymanite-operated boarding schools in Turkey.

Specifically, six Brazilian children between 13 and 17 years of age were allegedly transported to Turkey in February 2022 on “education visas” issued by the Turkish Embassy in Brazil. The embassy’s visa department is coming under scrutiny for its role in this process. However, Turkish Ambassador to Brazil Halil İbrahim Akça has declined to provide details about how these visas were issued or whether all legal procedures were followed, according to the Artı Gerçek report.

Law enforcement agencies in both Brazil and Turkey as well as INTERPOL have launched investigations into these allegations, Artı Gerçek said.

The Brazilian parliamentarians, in their visit to Turkey, plan to inspect the boarding schools in the Turkish cities of Kütahya and Tarsus, where the children are believed to be, according to Artı Gerçek.

This delegation’s visit to Turkey follows a rescue operation in Manaus, Brazil. In late February, Brazilian authorities rescued 14 adolescents and one child from an Islamic institution linked to the allegations, according to reports from the Brazilian media. The living conditions at the institution, managed by Tokdemir’s team, reportedly violated health and safety regulations, including the discovery of freezers filled with expired meat.

This case marks the first recorded instance of alleged targeted conversion of indigenous children in Brazil to Islam.

Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party‘s (AKP) relations with religious cults have been a subject of debate in the country, especially after a July 15, 2016 attempted coup, for which the government blamed the Gülen movement, inspired by Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen. The movement strongly denies any involvement in the failed putsch.

The AKP government is currently being criticized for not distancing itself from Islamist groups and letting cults fill the gap in state institutions that opened after widespread dismissals of alleged members of the Gülen movement.

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