A Turkish governmental education foundation is reporting that it is promoting a new school in New Jersey. According to the Maarif Foundation release:
April 18, 2021 Turkish Maarif Foundation (TMF) organized a promotion and entertainment day for families at the newly purchased building of Maarif Schools in New Jersey, USA. Families from the Turkish and Muslim communities living around New York and New Jersey participated in the program, held in the garden of the school in Wayne, New Jersey. During the program, various activities were carried out for children, while families were given a tour of the new building and got informed on the works. TMF USA Representative Assoc. Prof. Dr. Mehmet Özkan stated that they had been studying online for a long time due to the new type of Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, and this event was a good opportunity for families and children to come together.
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The Turkish government founded the Maarif Foundation (Türkiye Maarif Vakfı) ostensibly to provide education, dormitories, and scholarships abroad, from pre-school to higher education, and raise a “Turkey-friendly youth.” It was also intended to take over schools run by supporters of Fethullah Gülen, which Turkey blames for its 2016 coup. Zafer Sırakaya, Istanbul AKP MP and AKP Deputy Chairman of Foreign Relations, has identified the Maarif Foundation as an element of Turkey’s soft power and a means to reduce assimilation among the Turkish diaspora. The Maarif Foundation operates in over 100 countries globally. Its board members include many AKP officials, as well as:
- Selim Cerrah, a co-founder and vice president of Cihannüma, an association that has hosted Hamas leaders, including Khaled Meshaal.
- Osman Nuri Kabaktepe (Vice President Maarif Foundation) was a vice president of Cihannüma and a member of the high advisory board of the International Muslim Scholars Association, which has called itself the Turkish branch of the International Union of Muslim Scholars.
- Ayşen Gürcan has been a Chief Advisor to President Erdoğan.
Additionally, Maarif Foundation USA Executive Director Dr. Mehmet Özkan has held positions at several Turkish government-connected institutions:
- Associate Professor at the Turkish National Police Academy
- Regional Director at Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA)
- Foreign Policy Researcher at the SETA Foundation.
GIOR has previously reported that the Maarif Foundation’s budget was tripled for 2021.