Birol Akgün, chairman of Turkey’s Maarif Foundation, on Monday said during an online meeting that they have taken over 216 schools affiliated with the faith-based Gülen movement, a worldwide civic initiative inspired by the ideas of Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, in 44 countries, Turkish Minute reported.
Akgün also stated that the foundation had signed 77 protocols to take over schools linked to the movement in 45 more countries.
“Celebrating its fifth year, our foundation … extended its educational activities to 44 countries in 2021, along with Kyrgyzstan and South Africa,” Akgün said, adding that they aim to increase the number of countries hosting Maarif schools to 50 by the end of this year.
Akgün explained that the foundation has representative offices in 52 countries and that they conduct activities in 67 countries, 44 of which have active Maarif educational institutions, with a total of 354 schools and 41 dormitories hosting nearly 43,000 students.
According to Akgün, 216 of those schools were handed over by their host countries after the foundation proved their links to the Gülen movement.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen movement since the corruption investigations of December 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 as a terrorist organization and began to target its members. He locked up thousands including many prosecutors, judges and police officers involved in the investigation as well as journalists who reported on them.
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.
Maarif, which was established prior to a coup attempt on July 15, 2016 through legislation in the Turkish parliament, has targeted the closure of Gülen-linked educational institutions since the abortive putsch as part of the foreign policy of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).