May 18, 2015

Albania: Erdoğan given appropriate response for ‘political’ request on Turkish schools

Albanian Interior Minister Saimir Tahiri has said his country's relevant authorities gave Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan necessary responses for his recent request for closure of Turkish schools in the country.

Tahiri said at a press conference on Monday that Erdoğan's requests on the closure of the schools established by the Gülen movement, which is inspired by Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, and the movement's activities in Albania are “political” rather than aiming to ensure security in the region. The minister said counterterrorism efforts should not be tied to simple political gains.

Once a champion at promoting more Turkish schools abroad, personally inaugurating some, including in Albania, Erdoğan has now become an avowed enemy of these schools established by non-governmental organizations and volunteers from Turkey.

Turgut Ozal College, Albania
Turgut Ozal College
While in Tirana as part of an official visit to the small Balkan country last week, Erdoğan called on Albanian authorities to close Turkish schools there, some of which were opened during the 1990s at a time of political turbulence and instability in the country that barely avoided a civil war. Erdoğan's current unyielding war against Turkish schools in Albania contradicts his previous attitude. It was Erdoğan who inaugurated one of the schools, Turgut Özal College's elementary school, on Feb. 17, 2005, during an official trip when he was prime minister of Turkey.

Erdoğan accuses sympathizers of the Gülen movement -- inspired by the views of prominent Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen -- especially those in the state bureaucracy, of being behind a major corruption investigation that went public in 2013, implicating members of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government and Erdoğan's inner circles.

Erdoğan's current efforts to declare such schools as having been formed by a terrorist organization -- a reference to the Gülen movement, which has hundreds of schools around the world to promote education with the aim of facilitating inter-faith and inter-cultural dialogue -- created unease and stirred a backlash from Albanian politicians.

Several Albanian lawmakers dismissed Erdoğan's portrayal of the schools as being created by a terrorist organization, and have said that the schools provide a high quality education that is essential for the development of the country.

Published on Today's Zaman, 18 May 2015, Monday