Turkish media is reporting the government-funded Maarif Foundation has taken control of more than 200 schools worldwide, formerly led by organizations and individuals associated with the Gülen (aka FETÖ) movement. According to the pro-government Daily Sabah report:
As a result of the diplomatic activities carried out in close coordination with the Presidency, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other public institutions and organizations, FETÖ affiliated schools in 20 countries have been closed so far and 234 of them have been transferred to the Maarif. In 46 countries, 92 different protocols were signed with the aim of transferring FETÖ affiliated schools and opening new schools. From teaching Turkish to opening education centers for the children of Turks living abroad, from pre-school programs to its chains of successful schools, the Maarif Foundation leaves FETÖ in a difficult position as it branches out into every field of education abroad. Maarif opened 172 new educational institutions in 32 countries in order to meet the educational needs of nations that are strategically important for Turkey or where the Turkish diaspora is dense.
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The Gülen Movement is referred to by the Turkish government as the “Fethullahist Terrorist Organisation (FETÖ).” Fethullah Gülen, the leader of the Gülen movement, lives in self-exile in the United States near Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania. The Turkish government accuses him of planning the unsuccessful coup attempt in July 2016. Gülen was previously one of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s political allies and has millions of followers in his movement, which “prides itself on being a pacifist, internationalist, modern, and moderate alternative to more extreme derivations of Sunni Islam.” The movement runs schools worldwide, including many in the US.
It is interesting to note that the Daily Sabah identifies Canadian lawyer Robert Amsterdam who recently published a book called “Empire Of Deceit: Vol II: Web of Influence.” According to Daily Sabah, the book depicts a network of “FETÖ-affiliated schools in the U.S. and the corruption surrounding them, including financial violations and misconduct.” However, according to Reuters, Amsterdam is also the founder of UK-based firm Amsterdam and Partners LLP, which the Turkish government hired in 2015 to file a civil suit against Gülen alleging human rights abuses.
The Maarif Foundation was founded in 2016 and is funded by the Turkish Ministry of Education. Maarif operates in over 100 countries worldwide, including the EU, USA, and Australia. Maarif is funded by the Turkish Ministry of Education, and its budget was 1.23 billion lire (140 million EUR) in 2021 from 1 million lire in 2016. 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.