12 FETÖ-linked schools in Afghanistan transferred to Turkey's Maarif Foundation

Turkey's Education Minister Ismet Yılmaz (Right) shakes hands with Afghan counterpart in Kabul (AA Photo)

Turkish and Afghan officials attended a handover ceremony of 12 schools and three tutoring centers linked to the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) to Turkey's state-run Maarif Foundation Monday. The handover is the latest in Turkey's efforts to end the international presence of the terrorist group which is accused of carrying out the July 15, 2016 coup attempt in Turkey.

Education Minister İsmet Yılmaz and his Afghan counterpart Mohammad Ibrahim Shinwari attended the ceremony at the Media and Information Center in the Afghan capital of Kabul. Yılmaz highlighted that the Maarif Foundation will implement the curriculum prepared by the Afghan Education Ministry and will strive to offer high-quality education in its schools in the country. He also noted that they aim to increase the number of students receiving education in these schools and will also plan to offer bursaries and scholarships for successful students to receive education in Turkey. "Schools will also have lower tuition and their revenue will be spend on improving education in Afghanistan," the minister added.

Shinwari said Turkey has always stood with Afghanistan and they worked for a smooth handover of the schools, assuring the parents of the students attending those schools that their childrens' education would not be disrupted.

Although they are nearly 3,000 kilometers apart, Afghanistan and Turkey enjoy close ties dating back to the early years of the Republic of Turkey. Turkey was the first country to open a diplomatic mission in Kabul in 1921 and both Muslim-majority countries maintain deep cultural ties dating back to the Turkic rule of Afghanistan up to the 12th century.

Turkey established the Maarif Foundation in 2016 to take over the administration of overseas schools linked to FETÖ. It also establishes schools and education centers abroad. The Maarif Foundation has assumed control of numerous schools previously run by FETÖ around the world, including at least 32 in Africa, according to Turkey's National Education Ministry.

The country has asked several countries worldwide to shut down dozens of schools, colleges and businesses linked to the FETÖ network in the wake of the July 15 coup attempt. Last year, Afghanistan's neighbor Pakistan, another close ally of Turkey, has ordered the shutdown of schools in that country run by FETÖ and deported dozens of schools' FETÖ-linked staff to Turkey.

According to prosecutors, FETÖ leader Fetullah Gülen - a resident of the U.S. state of Pennsylvania - is the mastermind behind the foiled coup attempt in 2016 that killed 249 people. Ankara says FETÖ is behind a long-running campaign to overthrow the Turkish state through the infiltration of Turkish institutions, particularly the military, police and judiciary.

The terrorist group is also known for operating hundreds of school under the auspices of its network around the world. For decades, it disguised itself as a charity movement with religious undertones, opening schools, charities and companies on all continents. Through schools where children of the elite in the countries they operated are enrolled, the terrorist group extended its international clout, prosecutors investigating the international network says. FETÖ members enjoyed a safe haven in most countries they operated in before the 2016 coup attempt but Turkey's diplomatic efforts after the putsch bid paid off with most countries agreeing on cooperation with Ankara for the crackdown on the terrorists.