The Liberian government on April 22 summarily deported Turkish and Azeri teachers and their families — 12 people in all — working at a school affiliated with the faith-based Gülen movement, which has been targeted by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkish Minute reported, citing the Bold Medya news website.
The teachers worked at the Light International School, an educational institution operating in Liberia’s capital city of Monrovia and affiliated with the Gülen movement.
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.
The deportees were not sent to Turkey but are in Ghana, where there is also a Turkish school, according to reports by local media.
There have been no official comments from the government of Liberia on the matter.
Local media commented that the abrupt deportation was as 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 convince the Liberian government to dismantle the 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.”
Since the coup attempt, followers of the Gülen movement have been subjected to a massive crackdown, with the Turkish government and pro-government media outlets demonizing its members.
According to a statement from Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu on Nov. 26, a total of 292,000 people have been detained while 96,000 others have been jailed due to alleged links to the Gülen movement since the failed coup. The minister said there are currently 25,655 people in Turkey’s prisons who were jailed due to links to the Gülen movement.
In addition to the thousands who were jailed, scores of other Gülen movement followers had to flee Turkey to avoid the government crackdown.