A Turkish state-supported NGO is gearing up to take over schools in Ethiopia linked to the group blamed for last year’s defeated coup in Turkey, said NGO officials.
"We have started the establishment of the Maarif Foundation in Ethiopia following the Ethiopian president's decision to shut down schools” in six different campuses and allow their takeover, said Adem Koc, Maarif's central coordinator.
All the schools in question have been run by the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO), the group blamed by Ankara of being behind last July’s coup attempt, which martyred 249 people and injured some 2,200.
The terrorist group is also known for its network of hundreds of schools around the world.
The Maarif Foundation (TMF) was established after the coup attempt to take over the administration of overseas FETO-linked schools with a minimum of disruption and to protect the students’ best interests.
"We have been laying the groundwork, and are excited to take our place in Ethiopian education and training," Koc added.
‘Other countries should not pay such a price’
Koc urged everyone to remember two key facts:
"First of all, we are confronted with a terrorist organization, and one of the priorities the TMF has is to take over those FETO-linked schools," he said.
"The second is that all assets of this terrorist organization abroad were built by either Turkish citizen's taxes or donations, which makes those schools the property of the Turkish nation, and we will retrieve them," he added.
"We don't want other countries to experience such events; we paid a hefty price, losing 250 of our citizens while more than 2,000 were wounded, and our economy suffered $20 billion worth in damage. These schools are a brainwashing tool and we do not recognize them" as legitimate, he said.
Birol Akgun, Maarif’s chairman, said that they would provide scholarships from preschool to university and build educational institutions and dormitories.
Akgun added that Maarif will engage in scholarly research, improve publications and training methods, and offer training in line with whatever country it operates in.
Hasan Yavuz, Maarif’s deputy chair, said they have started education programs in five African countries and will soon expand to 10 more countries.
Talks are ongoing to take over schools in 15 countries, including Ethiopia, he said.
Yavuz stressed that in taking over FETO-linked schools, they would place importance on good relations with the countries involved, along with the quality of education.
"We will revise tuition policy as well because what matters is the quality of the education future generations get," he said.
"In the schools taken over in Africa, we will develop strong relationships in the health sciences, technical and vocational fields, and culture and communication subjects in accordance with universities in Turkey. We have taken some steps in Somalia and Sudan in this respect," he said.
*Ali Murat contributed to this report from Ankara