Turkey’s Erdoğan allegedly blackmailed Afghan gov’t for detention of Turkish teachers

The reactions against the abduction of three Turkish teachers, one Afghan teacher and one Turkish businessman who work at the Turkish Schools belonging to Afghan-Turkish Çağ Educational Foundation (ATCE) in Afghanistan are increasing.

While the Afghan media has been giving the developments with breaking news and the parents of students studying at the Çağ Schools stood up, it was claimed that the Turkish government under the rule of autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has recently turned its pressures to blackmailing and began to threaten the Afghan state. However, despite all the pressures of the Erdoğan regime, it is said that the Afghan people and the Kabul government have embraced these schools so far.

According to information given by sources, demanded to be anonymous, Erdoğan’s regime has threatened Afghanistan government with further destabilisation in the country and support for the opposition against the government. Moreover, it was also stated that Afghanistan has been pressurised by Turkish government by saying that “We will not give visas to any of Afghan businessmen. Along with that we will be in favor of Pakistan in the conflict between you and Pakistan.”

It is also stated that Erdoğan regime has put Afghanistan’s former Vice President General Rashid Dostum as another trump card on the table. General Dostum, who had a number of accusations in Afghanistan including torture and harassment, had fled to Turkey in May 2017. Dostum is of Uzbek descend and being protected by Turkey. According to the allegations, the Afghan government forced Dostum to exile. In this context, in return of the closure of Turkish schools and deportation of Turkish teachers President Erdoğan gave a guarantee to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani that he would ensure Dostum not to be sent back to Afghanistan ever.

Yunus Demirci

Meanwhile, the parents of students, who have reacted very harshly to the Afghan government’s move, are expected to say that “We grant 48 hours to the government for the return of our teachers. Otherwise, we will do intensive protests,” by organizing a press conference on Thursday.

In the meantime, it was learned that four of the five people who were kidnapped were under the protection of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and therefore the UNHCR wrote a letter to the Afghan Foreign Ministry and warned that these people should not be deported to Turkey.

The vehicle of Turkish teachers; Önder Akkuşci, Yunus Demirci, Yılmaz Aytan and an Afghan based teacher Mesut Vardak, who came out of their homes to go to the school on Tuesday morning, were stopped on the street. The teachers, who were surrounded by the Afghan intelligence service National Directorate of Security (NDS), were detained and taken to a building belonging to the NDS.

Yılmaz Aytan

It was also reported that Yılmaz Aytan and Mesut Vardak were members of the Board of Directors in the Afghan-Turkish Çağ Educational NGO (ATCE) owning all the Turkish Schools.

At the same time, the vehicle of Turkish businessman Sami Yavuz, who came out of his home to go to his restaurant in Kabul, was also stopped and surrounded by NDS officials. Yavuz was detained and taken to the same place as the other four educators.

The ATCE officials, who had been informed 2 hours after the abduction, called the Afghanistan’s Interior Ministry in order to get information. Ministry officials said that “The incident has no relations with us. The intelligence is the responsible for that.”

In the evening of the same day, the girls’ high school affiliated to the Çağ Schools in Kabul was raided by NDS. Intelligence officers, who wanted to detain the teacher Fatih Çakmakçı, asked to search the girl’s dormitory. This initiative caused harsh reaction of the students and parents. The Parents’ Committee showed a strict resistance with its 24 members.

Mesut Vardak

According to the information received by Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF), it is accepted as an unforgivable attempt in Afghan culture to raid the school building where girls’ dorm also located in the same campus at midnight.

The parents who flocked to the school and did not deliver the teacher to the intelligence officers who came for detention, and took him under their protection. The NDS staff had to leave the building without making any detention. These moments were also broadcast by the Afghan media.

On the other hand, the people who were taken into custody were said that “We have a complaint about you. There is a court decision in your country, Turkey,” without showing any official document and written justification. It is also noted that no crime has been committed by detainees in Afghanistan. Underlining the fact that there is no treaty of ‘extradition of criminals’ between Turkey and Afghanistan, it is emphasized that the abductions are totally unlawful.

Önder Akkuşçi

While the spouses and children of the abductees were taken under protection by the ATCE, it was learned that the detainees’ family members could talk to their husbands under custody on the phone.

In the meantime, while the education is not developed enough, the Çağ Schools are regarded as the pupil of Afghanistan’s eye. It is stated in Afghanistan, where does not have schools almost half of its territory, that Çağ Schools have provided education in international standard with 8 thousand students. It was reported that 3 thousand of these students are female. There are 120 teachers serving in the schools.

Afghan Turk International School are the members of a chain of Turkish educational institutions established in 1995 and running under the auspices of Afghan Turk International Çag Educational Foundation for pursuit of excellence in education in Afghanistan. Annually Afghan Turk High Schools graduate their students get the highest ranks in Afghanistan and over the world. In January 2014, Afghan Education Minister Ghulam Farooq Wardak said that he would like Turkey to increase the number of Turkish-Afghan schools in Afghanistan, opening a school in each province as an education role model.

Following a controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016, the Turkish government under the rule of Turkish autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan asked Kabul to close the schools and hand over the teachers of these schools to the government of Turkey.

A report by TOLO News basing on a probe has found documents that indicate the Ministry of Education (MoE) is trying to take control of the independent Afghan-Turk Schools at the end of November 2017. According to the documents seen by TOLO News, the MoE wants to control the education and administrative sectors of the schools.

Meanwhile a number of families of students attending the Afghan-Turk schools said government is putting pressure on the schools stating it has a right to control them. The Director General of Monitoring and Evaluation at the education ministry said in a letter sent to Balkh, Kandahar, Jawzjan, Herat and Nangarhar education departments that they need to start monitoring the Afghan-Turk schools in their provinces.

Afghan-Turk schools officials meanwhile had said such monitoring was unusual and was in violation of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between the directorate of Afghan-Turk schools and the education ministry.

According to the report, Afghan Education Ministry also reportedly sent another letter to Afghan-Turk schools on November. In this letter, the ministry said that based on the MoU between Afghanistan and Turkish governments, the education ministry has a right to monitor the schools. However, officials at the Afghan-Turk schools said they are a non-government organization and the MoU was signed between the organization and education ministry – not between the governments.

“In article 31 of our MoU with the MoE, it is explained that which parts can be reviewed and assessed. We have shared our opinions with the ministry, but so far we have not received anything else in this regard,” Ahmad Fawad Haidari, deputy director of Afghan-Turk schools said.  The MoU was signed on 2011 and is valid for 49 years.

The witch hunt launched in 2013 in Turkey targeting the alleged followers of the Gülen movement in the wake of a massive corruption and bribery scandal of Turkish government ministers and their family members on December 17-25, 2013 has even affected Pakistan and Afghanistan. Erdoğan put the pressure on the Afghan government to close the educational and cultural institutions alleged to be affiliated with the movement and to deport the Turkish citizens working in these institutions.

Previously Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Georgia and Myanmar handed over academics, businessmen and school principals, teachers upon the Turkish government’s request even though some of those victims already had refugee status with the UN like Mesut Kaçmaz  and his family in Pakistan.

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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