Political Islamist President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan led autocratic Turkish regime’s months long pressures have given fruits and Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani has agreed to hand over the successful Afghan-Turk schools to the recently established Maarif Foundation.
Since the ill-intentioned Maarif Foundation was found by Erdoğan regime in wake of failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016, just for aiming at taking over the successful schools operated by Turkish civic society, Gülen movement, the step has not been welcomed by the affected schools in Afghanistan.
According to a report in Afghan media, officials of the schools have warned that the move would lead to closing the schools and damage the quality of education. “After this we will not have the 99 percent success rate in the Kankor exam or achievements in international competitions,” Ahmad Fawad Haidari, deputy director of Afghan-Turk schools said.
The primary stages of the handover have reportedly been completed and a source has told TOLOnews that the Afghanistan’s National Security Council (NSC) is responsible for the handover. “The Government took the decision to accede to the Turkish government request. No department alone has done this, but it was a joint effort by government,” said Tawab Ghorzang, spokesman of NSC.
Afghan-Turk schools have been opened and supported by the sympathizers of the Gülen movement which is inspired by the US-based Turkish Muslim intellectual Fethullah Gülen who has been a vocal critic of Turkish government and President Erdoğan on corruption as well as the government’s aiding and abetting of radical groups in Middle East. Erdoğan launched a witch-hunt persecution against Gülen and his followers in December 2013 right after major corruption probe that incriminated Erdoğan’s family members.
Turkish president vowed to pursue members of Gülen movement abroad no matter where they are, shut down all institutions affiliated with the movement and jailed over 46,000 people in the last six months alone. Erdoğan labelled the movement as ‘FETÖ’, a terrorist organization, although Gülen, 75-year old cleric, and his followers have never advocated violence but rather remained staunchly opposed to any violence, radicalism and terror in the name of religion.
Erdoğan has also blamed the failed coup bid last year to Gülen but failed to present any direct evidence linking the cleric to the attempt. Gülen himself strongly denied any involvement. Many believe Erdoğan staged the failed coup himself to set up his critics for a mass persecution and as a pretext to transform secular parliamentary democracy to political Islamist autocracy.
After the failed military coup in Turkey, Erdoğan ordered all countries to handover the schools to the newly established and the controversial Maarif Foundation which was financially supported by Turkish and Saudi governments.
Ahmad Fawad Haidari, deputy director of Afghan-Turk schools, has said that “Gülen is not owner of the schools, he has no direct impact on the schools.” Afghan-Turk schools, which have been active in Afghanistan for last 20 years, have built good reputations in education and their students have brought hundreds of medals to the country. Some say the government decision face serious reactions from the public. Nearly 8.000 students, boys and girls, are currently studying at these schools.
In May 2001, Taleban had shut down these schools which are providing contemporary education for free as girls and women were hard hit by the Taleban’s stance on education. In a country where the public education system is suffering from a chronic lack of resources, the Turkish schools were rare centers of educational excellence. The administration of the schools had said problems emerged when the Taleban demanded control of their finances.
However, following the collapse of Taleban regime, former Afghan President Hamid Karzai has honored Turkish schools in his country, awarding them a prestigious state medal during a ceremony in Kabul in June 2009. The ceremony was attended by Afghan Education Minister Farooq Wardak and a number of Afghan deputies. The Director General of Afghan-Turkish High Schools, Hikmet Çoban was given the Sayed Jamaluddin Afghan Medal, which is one of Afghanistan’s most prestigious medals.
Also, four students from the Afghan-Turkish Girls’ High School were given gold medals for their success at the International Environmental Project Olympiad (INEPO) in Turkey. The school’s principal, Ubeydullah Dinler, and a teacher at the school, Gülbahar Dinler, were also given awards for training very successful students at their school.
Praising Turkish schools in his country, Karzai said: “Citizens of Turkey, [your country is] a sister and friend to Afghanistan. [You have helped] to prepare Afghan students for international competitions by equipping [our] schools with modern and scientific equipment through undaunted efforts.”
Afghan-Turkish schools have always been a source of pride for the country as they won numbers of medals from international science olympiads. For instance in 2013, the students of these schools won 147 medals at international science olympiads. The schools had also won 75 medals in 2012. In 2013, a ceremony was held at the Afghan Turkish school in Kabul to honor and encourage further the winners. Afghan Education Minister Wardak handed gifts to winners of gold, silver and bronze medals.
The schools have also attracted praises from prominent international figures. For example, NATO’s former Secretary General and Denmark’s former Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen had praised these schools in Afghanistan. During a visit to Ankara on Oct. 2010, Rasmussen had paid his complements to those schools and thanked Turkey for the support it’s giving to Afghanistan, and added that the educational activities, especially, are really beneficial. He had also expressed his wishes for these activities to continue.
Moreover, the educational activities of these schools were also praised by former British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett during her visit to Ankara on March 2007.
On the other hand, the controversial Maarif Foundation’s notorious activities in other countries, e.g. Nigeria, had drawn harsh reactions from local civic groups. Sheikh Goni Sanusi Abubakar, the leader of a civic movement in Nigeria, warned the officials in a statement issued in Abuja over ill-intentions of the Maarif Foundation. Sanusi had stated that “If Nigeria allows Maarif or any such group in whatever nomenclature into Nigeria, chances are that the culture of intolerance that will be induced could well make Boko Haram a child’s play. This may sound far-fetched, but then 10 years ago, nobody thought Boko Haram was going to grow to become the big monster it has become.”
Under the rule of autocratic Erdoğan regime, a total of 29,000 teachers have been dismissed permanently from profession while another 22,000 got their licenses revoked in Turkey because of their alleged links to the Gülen movement. In the meantime, the Turkish Education Ministry has shut down 15 universities, 1060 science focused high-schools, 846 student dormitories and 900 prep-schools on similar charges. More than 500 of these schools were turned by Erdoğan regime into religious schools.
March 5, 2017