Turkey's state-backed Maarif Foundation continues to pursue legal steps abroad to take control of schools affiliated with the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ). The foundation was established by the Turkish government in 2016 to assume control of FETÖ-linked schools abroad and open new schools. Speaking to the media recently, National Education Minister Ziya Selçuk answered questions on the activities of the Maarif Foundation. Maarif Foundation Chairman Birol Akgün was also present at the program. Akgün said FETÖ-linked schools are still active in 55 countries. "The foundation has so far taken control of 217 FETÖ-linked schools in 18 countries, while another 291 schools are operating within the body of Maarif as of July 2019," Akgün told the media. The foundation employs around 5,000 personnel, including 3,128 teachers abroad.
The Turkish government has provided TL 723 million since the establishment of the foundation, while it has also received TL 18.5 million donations.
FETÖ has a considerable presence abroad, particularly in the U.S., where it runs a chain of charter schools that serve as a revenue stream for the terrorist group.
The U.S. is home to a large community of Gülenists, including the group's leader Fetullah Gülen, who has lived in a self-imposed exile on a secluded compound in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania since 1999.
While the Maarif Foundation has representatives in 55 countries, it also made official contact with 99 countries for educational activities. It educates more than 30,000 students at 272 schools in 33 countries. The foundation has also signed protocols with 43 countries and is soon planning to start educational activities. It also runs 36 dormitories in different countries. Alongside opening new schools worldwide, the Maarif Foundation has been taking control of FETÖ-linked educational institutions after the group orchestrated a coup attempt on July 15, 2016, killing 251 people and injuring nearly 2,200.
The FBI has already conducted investigations on charter schools linked to the terrorist group; although it was quiet about the progress of those investigations, which focused on the shady business practices of the schools. It has also cooperated with Turkish authorities in an investigation into alleged money laundering schemes of the terrorist group.
These FETÖ schools are usually gathered under umbrella organizations and managed through foundations. As an example, 46 schools are named "Harmony" in Texas, 30 schools named "Concept" in and around Ohio, and some others are called "Magnolia." Besides offering education, the Maarif Foundation also provides assistance to many high school students, who are looking for higher education in Turkey. To that end, the foundation has already signed protocols with 42 Turkish universities. These protocols focus on many areas including teacher training and Turkish language courses for foreign students.
The foundation also holds matriculation examination or Examination for International Students (YÖS) for foreign students at its schools abroad.