Three Turkish teachers allegedly affiliated with Gülen movement detained in Afghanistan

Three Turkish and one Afghan teachers were detained by Afghan intelligence officials on Tuesday on the request of Turkish government under the rule of autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan over their alleged links to the Gülen movement as Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani was on his way to İstanbul to attend the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Summit on Jerusalem crisis.

Turkish online news portal TR724 identified three of the teachers as Mesut Vardak, Önder Akkuşçu and Yılmaz Aytan. Meanwhile, Euronews said Turkish businessman Sami Yavuz was also rounded up in Kabul around the same time. TR724 reported that Sami Yavuz’s wife Zehra Yavuz was also detained along with him and taken to an undisclosed location where she was later released on the grounds that she was not on the list of ‘wanted.’

According to a report by Tolo News, Afghan security forces raided an Afghan-Turk female high school in Taimani area in Kabul on Tuesday evening and surrounded the school for at least three hours, students claimed. The students and their parents claimed that the security forces then entered the girls’ hostel. The students said they were scared after seeing security forces at the school.

“It is an aggression, it is the violation of people’s privacy. A Muslim and an Afghan will never do this,” said Sumayya, a student.

“When I came here, everyone said security forces have entered the school. It is very bad to enter girls’ dormitory at night,” Mursal, a student, said.

“Our parents have sent us here to learn something. What is going on and what are (security forces) they doing here?” asked Nargis, a student of the high school.

The move against Afghan-Turk Çağ Educational NGO (ATCE), the body that runs the schools, appeared to be part of a Turkish government massive witch hunt campaign targeting the alleged followers of Gülen movement across Turkey and abroad.

According to a report by Reuters, ATCE, which says it is an independent organization, runs schools in several cities including the capital, Kabul, Mazar-i-Sharif, Kandahar and Herat and has been in Afghanistan since 1995. “Around 7 a.m., four of our teachers traveling in two different cars were picked up by Afghan intelligence,” said Numan Erdoğan, the chairman of ATCE.

Parents of the students slammed security forces over entering the school. They said it is an illegal act against civilians.

“The National Directorate of Security operatives detained four teachers today (Tuesday) morning, who were on their way to an Afghan-Turk high school. We were informed that they were kidnapped. We thought the country’s enemies may have abducted them, but later we found out that the officers of the National Directorate Security have detained them,” said Yusuf Pashtun, member of the Afghan-Turk students’ parents association.

Other intelligence officials later went to the group’s girls’ school nearby looking for another teacher, he said. He said the men presented themselves as members of the National Directorate of of Security (NDS), Afghanistan’s intelligence agency. Neither the NDS nor the Afghan government immediately responded to requests of Reuters for comment.

“How they (security forces) entered a civilian compound and the girls’ hostel while they did not have any order from the court? This is illegal,” Sediqullah Tawhidi, another member of the association, said.

Hours after the incident, the Afghan-Turk High School, without pointing out to the security forces’ raid on the school, in a statement said four teachers of the school, including three Turkish and one Afghan nationals, are missing.

The statement said the teachers were on their way to Afghan-Turk High School in Shah-e-Do Shamshira area, in the center of Kabul City, and then they were disappeared.

In March, Afghanistan ordered the schools to be transferred to Maarif Foundation which was established by Turkish government. The raid comes after months of deliberations over closure of several Afghan-Turk schools that Erdoğan regime believes are run by the volunteers of the Gülen movement.

A former Afghan security official who wished not to be named said he believed the teachers might be extradited to Turkey even though the two countries have no extradition agreement.

Last year, shortly before a visit to Islamabad by the Turkish president, Pakistan ordered Turkish teachers at schools run by a body called PakTurk International Schools and Colleges to leave the country.

Turkey survived a controversial military coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that killed 249 people. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with President Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.

Gülen, who inspired the movement, strongly denied having any role in the failed coup and called for an international investigation into it, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.

Turkey has suspended or dismissed more than 150,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants since July 15. Turkey’s Interior Minister announced on December 12, 2017 that 55,665  people have been arrested. Previously, on December 13, 2017, The Justice Ministry announced that 169,013 people have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.

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