May 25, 2015

Africa, Albania and Erdogan’s campaign against Turkish schools

Ademu Sadik

Nations that are not under colonial rule should operate as sovereign states with the ability to make laws and take decisions that concern their citizens.

The responsibility of managing the affairs of the people in most countries are usually entrusted in the hands of certain persons who emerged either through elections or other selection processes depending on the laid down procedures for appointing leaders in such countries.

It will be a slur for any nation to diminish its status to the level that external bodies have to start dishing out instructions to it on how its affairs are run.

This could be the reason why the recent call by Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for the closure of Turkish schools in Albania has continued to draw criticisms from citizens of that small Balkan country.

I think it is interesting to see the huge pressure from stakeholders, the press and civil society groups in Albania on their country’s government to clarify its position on the matter. At least, this clearly indicates that there are people who would not allow their nation become a colony of Turkey.

Like in Africa where Erdogan’s attempt to close Turkish schools was rebuffed, I am glad that the Albanians are following a similar path.

While reports have it that the Albanian government recently carried out a raid to clamp down on schools they deemed unfit, which led to the closure of 13 schools, the passion by Erdogan to have Turkish schools in the country to be shut down continues to baffle many people.

The Turkish president, who has not ceased making unsubstantiated allegations against his perceived opponents, had during his official visit to Albania called for the closure of the Turkish schools in the country, claiming that the schools were established by a terrorist organization.

But, keen followers of events in Turkey are not surprised by Erdogan’s tagging of the owners of Turkish schools (Hizmet movement) as a terrorist organisation. They are aware of the strained relationship between Erdogan and anybody linked with the Hizmet Movement. As such, Erdogan’s action is in furtherance of his deep-rooted hatred for the movement that is widely known for promoting inter-religious dialogue.

Informed analysts on activities in Turkey know that Erdoğan had accused the Hizmet movement of orchestrating a corruption investigation of his government when he was the Prime Minister of Turkey in 2013.

And, this recent move is a clear indication of a clandestine way of carrying out his continuous frustration of his perceived enemies, which further exposed his obsession with oppression..

For instance, Erdogan did not only approve of establishment of Turkish schools abroad, but he had in the past inaugurated some. It is on record that Erdoğan inaugurated one of the schools in Turkey, Turgut Özal College’s elementary school, on Feb. 17, 2005, during one of his official trips to Albania when he was prime minister of Turkey.

This is clear evidence that Erdogan is chasing those who have become a thorn in his flesh and his actions and inactions over time have shown that he is out to destroy them and their business interests.

Though it is an open secret that Erdogan is bent on this repressive act, analysts are worried that he had to do this without recourse to diplomacy or sense of responsibility.

Aligning with this line of argument were some parliamentarians in Albania, most of whom dismissed Erdogan’s claim that the schools in question were being established by a terrorist organization. They even went ahead to score the schools high by describing them as about the best schools that provide high quality education that is essential for the development of Albania.

It is only rational that the worried lawmakers had to call on their government to shun the claim of President Erdogan. For instance, Ben Blushi, a deputy from the ruling Socialist Party of Albania (PS), while addressing a session in the parliament recently, called on the government to reject Erdoğan’s request. Blushi rightly argued that Albania is not a province of Turkey. This is a clear rejection of a colonization attempt on Albania by Erdogan and his party, AKP.

Dismissing Erdogan’s allegation, Blushi categorically said the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) alone has the power to label an organization a terrorist group. This questions Erdogan’s declaration of the Hizmet Movement as a terrorist organization.

What Erdogan and his Ruling Justice Development Party (AKP) were trying to do can be seen as an attempt to colonise Albania using the bait of bringing Turkish investment to the country and to also further expand their fight against the Hizmet Movement which they assumed was responsible for exposing their corrupt practices.

Also, the Albanian Economy Minister, Arben Malaj, has made his views on the issue known. According to him, Erdogan’s call for the closure of those schools is an affront on the people of the country. He questioned Erdogan’s order to the Albanian government just as he wondered why schools that have provided qualitative education to such a great number of Albanian citizens should be mortgaged for Turkish investment, which he interpreted to be an attempt to transfer Turkish problems to Albania.

With this latest development, Erdogan and senior members of his party, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) seem to have lost touch with happenings in diplomatic circles. Hence, their obsession with cracking down on Hizmet movement continues to earn them more insults.

Published on The Sun, 25 May 2015, Monday