Dec 11 2017

Senegalese parents caught up in Turkish Islamist rift

Parents of Senegalese children attending schools run by followers of U.S.-based Turkish preacher Fethullah Gülen – the man blamed for last year’s coup attempt in Turkey - are worried by reports these schools could be handed over to Turkish government control, news website Quartz said.

“I don’t even know who Gülen or (Turkish President Recep Tayyip) Erdoğan are,” mother Oury Mbaye told the website following reports her child’s school could be handed over to the Turkish government-controlled Maarif Foundation.

“If they are imposing managers on me that have no experience in education, I will transfer my children to a French school. I did not choose Maarif, and they won’t impose anything on me.”

Erdoğan’s Islamist government used to see the Gülen religious movement’s overseas educational activities as a way to project Turkish soft power. But the group fell out dramatically with the government in 2013, when prosecutors said to be linked to the movement began investigating ministers on corruption charges.

The Turkish government now considers the group a terrorist organisation and accuses it of masterminding the failed 2016 coup attempt.

Le Monde newspaper said Ankara had offered the Senegalese government $7.5 million to transfer the Yavuz Selim educational group to Maarif.

But Education Minister Serigne Mbaye Thiam denied the report, saying that Senegal had only licensed Maarif to be able to set up its own schools, Quartz said.