In a sign of improved cooperation against terrorism, Iraq's Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) seized 38 schools including a university run by the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ), which is accused of carrying out the July 15 coup attempt in Turkey.
Gülenists, who run a global network of schools, face a broad sheet of charges, ranging from a putsch attempt by a junta loyal to the group to financial crimes and sham trials carried out by their infiltrators within police and judiciary to imprison the group's opponents.
The Ministry of National Education sent a representative to Irbil, the seat of the KRG, to coordinate education activities. KRG Education Minister Pishtiwan Sadiq said schools had about 14,000 students. Sadiq said they were in touch with Turkish authorities on investigation into the schools' links to FETÖ.
Ankara has launched an international initiative to stop Gülenists' activities abroad and Turkish missions are tasked with explaining how FETÖ schemed to topple the elected government on July 15, when the Gülenist junta killed civilians standing up against them.
The KRG is among the supporters of the Turkish state in its fight against FETÖ. Apart from shutting down the schools, the KRG also banned the entry of Talip Büyük, an alleged "imam" (point man of the terror group) for Northern Iraq. Irbil has already extradited Nurettin Aytuğ, a senior Gülenist, to Turkey, in August.
Turkey's relations with the KRG flourished in recent years as Irbil moved to develop ties especially in the fight against terrorism and on energy.
Schools across the world, which are known as the primary recruitment grounds for FETÖ, are under scrutiny in the wake of the July 15 coup attempt. Turkey has called some 50 countries to close Gülenist schools while some countries on friendly terms with Turkey have already offered to shut down the schools after the putsch attempt. Ankara also ordered closure of the vast network of schools within Turkey following the foiled putsch attempt.
The Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) long posed as a religious group before evolving into a powerful politically charged entity and later, experts say, into a terrorist group that depends on education to both advance its ideology as well as swell its funds. FETÖ's presence is particularly strong in underdeveloped African countries as well as former Soviet republics in Central Asia where the schools are used both for attracting poor children into the group and as prestigious institutions where the children of state's elite attend.
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