Turkey has managed to take back some 250 schools that had links to the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) in 40 countries, said Hasan Yavuz, vice president of the Maarif Foundation, adding that they have saved 30,000 students from falling into the trap of the terrorist group.
Turkey established the Maarif Foundation in 2016 to take over the administration of overseas schools linked to FETÖ. The foundation has assumed control of numerous schools previously run by FETÖ around the world, including 32 in Africa, according to Turkey's National Education Ministry.
In a phone interview with Anadolu Agency, Yavuz emphasized Turkey's determination to eradicate the FETÖ network overseas and explained the "diabolical" tactics exercised by FETÖ members.
"We got the strong message of the virtuous Turkish people who stopped FETÖ's coup attempt on July 15, 2016 by flooding onto the streets in millions and sacrificing their lives. They demanded an absolute end to all FETÖ terrorism," said Yavuz.
"Putting an end to terrorist activities by FETÖ is our utmost duty within the framework of law," he added.
According to Yavuz, FETÖ uses four strategies in the war against Turkey:
The first one is that FETÖ uses officials and bureaucrats who were brainwashed and recruited during their student years in its schools.
Providing free education to the children and relatives of high-ranking officials and bureaucrats who in return turn a blind eye to FETÖ activities in those countries, especially in Africa, is the second strategy.
Thirdly, FETÖ uses deception tactics such as disguising its institutions as foreign corporations that have multinational shareholders.
It can be said for the last one that FETÖ leaves behind unpaid debts, unpaid insurance premiums to workers and administrative staff, broken computers and damaged schools. Once FETÖ is certain that a specific school will be taken from them, they transfer all the money in the local bank accounts to Pennsylvania, the terror group's operational base in the U.S.
Yavuz stated that Turkey stipulated certain conditions in the protocol agreements with countries that decided to transfer FETÖ schools to Maarif.
"We will not pay the debts of this terror group, we said, we are only taking back what is already ours. You gave these schools to them assuming that they represent Turkey," Yavuz said.
Yavuz gave details of the legal battles against the terror group over the years and thanked top officials and lawmakers in Senegal, Chad, Mali, Niger, Guinea and several other countries for their "invaluable" cooperation in foiling FETÖ plans to use those countries as bases to wage a war against Turkey.
'THANKFUL TO PAKISTAN AND AFGHANISTAN'
Commenting on the significant progress made in Pakistan and Afghanistan in eliminating the FETÖ threat, Yavuz said, "We had a tough legal process ahead of us but we patiently fought in the past two years and won in the end."
"Six schools in major cities of Afghanistan such as Herat, Mazar-i Sharif and Kabul were transferred to Maarif. Thirty-five FETÖ members were arrested. Pakistan has set a good example for Afghanistan as well. This positive trend will continue," he concluded. Turkey has asked several countries worldwide to shut schools, colleges and businesses linked to the terror group in the wake of the July 15, 2016 defeated coup attempt which left 251 people killed and nearly 2,200 injured.
Last year, Pakistan, another close ally of Turkey, ordered the shutdown of schools run by FETÖ and deported dozens of FETÖ-linked staff to Turkey.
The 2016 deadly coup bid was orchestrated by FETÖ and its U.S.-based leader Fetullah Gülen. Ankara also accuses FETÖ of being behind a long-running campaign to overthrow the state through the infiltration of Turkish institutions, particularly the military, police and judiciary. FETÖ has a considerable presence outside Turkey, including private schools that serve as a revenue stream for the terrorist group.