Liberian defense minister visits Turkey following deportation of teachers working at Gülen schools

Liberian Defense Minister Daniel Dee Ziankahn visited Turkey two weeks after the deportation of teachers working at a school in Liberia affiliated with the faith-based Gülen movement.

The Liberian government on April 22 summarily deported Turkish and Azeri teachers and their families — 12 people in all — working at the Light International School, an educational institution operating in Liberia’s capital city of Monrovia and affiliated with the movement.

According to an official statement from the Turkish Defense Ministry, Ziankahn paid an official visit to Ankara on Thursday and discussed bilateral cooperation in military issues and the defense industry with his Turkish counterpart, Hulusi Akar.

They also discussed the presence of educational institutions affiliated with the movement in Liberia.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the movement, which conducts educational activities as well as charity work around the world, since the corruption investigations of Dec. 17-25, 2013, which implicated then-prime minister Erdoğan, his family members and his inner circle.

Dismissing the investigations as a Gülenist coup and conspiracy against his government, Erdoğan designated the movement, inspired by Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen, as a terrorist organization and began to target its members. Erdoğan intensified the crackdown on the movement following a coup attempt on July 15, 2016, that he accused Gülen of masterminding. Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the abortive putsch or any terrorist activity.

There have been no official comments from the government of Liberia on the matter. Local media reported that the abrupt deportation was a result of overtures from the Erdoğan administration aiming to suppress dissent around the world.

In July 2017 Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu went to Liberia to strengthen diplomatic relations between the two countries and to persuade the Liberian government to dismantle Gülen-affiliated establishments in the country.

Çavuşoğlu failed to convince the Liberian government at the time, led by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who disapproved of the Turkish foreign minister’s quest on Liberian soil.

According to a report by the Heritage news website, citing unofficial sources in the administration of the current President George Weah, the Turkish nationals were unceremoniously deported, citing “security reasons.”

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