July 28, 2016

How Kyrgyzstan and Turkey quarreled about Gülen

Kyrgyzstan once again got into an international scandal. This time - with a strategic partner - Turkey, where the military attempted to overthrow the head of the country Recep Tayyip Erdogan on July 16. The coup failed. The Turkish authorities accused the former imam and preacher Fethullah Gülen of organization of the coup. He is hiding in the United States now.

It would seem what "the island of democracy" has to do with the disgraced professor and the events in Turkey? But exactly Kyrgyzstan has a large number of Turkish educational institutions with the Pan-Turkic training. The sponsor of such institutions and high schools is Mr. Gülen.

Response to Turkish sultan

At a recent of many thousands rallies in Istanbul, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu called on the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kyrgyzstan Erlan Abdyldaev to change attitude to "Gülen gang." "I called my Kyrgyz counterpart. This gang is one of the most powerful in Kyrgyzstan. I told my brother, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kyrgyzstan: "If you do not change your attitude toward them, then we will change the attitude towards you. We are looking forward the support from our brothers, don't turn away from brother. In these difficult days, you have to prove your brotherhood," he said.

The Kyrgyz Foreign Ministry quickly gave a harsh response. Leadership of the Foreign Affairs Ministry reminded the Turkish brother that Kyrgyzstan is an independent and sovereign state, which is able to separate the wheat from the chaff. "We consider it incorrect when the Foreign Minister of a country points another state to the need to take certain steps using the language of ultimatums and blackmail," statement said.

Further it was noted that the Foreign Affairs Ministry has received appeal with respect to operating in Kyrgyzstan Turkish private educational institutions. "The Kyrgyz side is carefully studying it and will take appropriate measures if necessary. There are certain legal rules, the obligations of the parties. But it's only an internal affair of our country," the ministry noted.

"Sebat" of stumbling

Harsh response of our diplomats was approved and supported by the society. Turkey is still keeping silence. However, the Doctor of Historical Sciences Zainidin Kurmanov believes that our state itself is to blame for the fact that the partners in the international arena can allow themselves teaching us. "Relations between the countries should not be built on the basis of undue familiarity. If Kyrgyzstan complied with international obligations, conducted multi-vector policy, we would be considered and would not be put such conditions," he said.

An analyst Dosmir Uzbekov believes that the closure of a wide network of schools and high schools "Sebat" will cause outrage among the population. "My son has graduated from Turkish lyceum, and I am very pleased with the education he received there. "Sebat" has become an inherent part of the education system of Kyrgyzstan. If we close these schools now, people will just do not understand it. It is understandable why Turkey requires this of us: these institutions are directly financed from the Gülen Fund. But we have signed an agreement with him long time ago and must abide it," he said.

An expert Kairat Osmonaliyev notes that the situation is not easy, and points to the fact that the Turkish government is now acting much on emotions, so not always diplomatically. "Erdogan with his team tired not only the large regional and global players, but also a significant part of the political elite in Turkey, including the military. Repressions will not help - it is a wrong time, so it is necessary to present the public image of an enemy. It is tried and tested method. So Gülen supporters have been chosen - a serious political force with the prospect of coming to power. It can be seen how ridiculous their charges of terrorism are. At least I have not heard about the terrorist attacks by Gülen supporters. On the contrary, their image is associated with an enlightened Islam, which is based on science and education, including the network of "Sebat" educational institutions," Kairat Osmonaliyev said.

According to him, Istanbul may make any hypotheses about "nocuousness" of "Sebat" schools, and Kyrgyzstan could take note of this. However, the manner of presentation of information is unacceptable in terms of diplomacy. "And here the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has shown professionalism, it parried immediately, recalling that our country is an independent and it decides for itself how to act. Figuratively speaking, it classically said where to get off to the high-handed partner-colleague. By the way, the official Bishkek reaction is closely monitored by our partners and neighbors. I think this will only strengthen the authority of Kyrgyzstan," Kairat Osmonaliyev believes.

The expert points out that the Turks had the ambitions on the role of regional leader as far back as in the early 1990s. "Time has shown that the ambitions are backed by neither the resources nor coherent integration foreign policy. It is clear to almost all in Central Asia, but not the official Istanbul. Hence the tone of the letter addressed to our Foreign Ministry," he concluded.

Political analyst Murat Suyunbaev also supports the position of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. "The response of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is justified. Another thing is that we can do without a skirmish between the foreign ministries and deal with "Sebat" long ago. I am not against the Turkish education, but it is too much for Kyrgyzstan. Two universities are too much for a small republic," he added.

Uneducated diplomacy

There is no evidence that the Gülen Fund is organizing in Kyrgyzstan or other countries subversive activities aimed at overthrowing Erdogan, political analyst Sheradil Baktygulov said. He believes the answer of Kyrgyz diplomats was adequate. "Ultimatum of Turkey is part of their policy with regard to not only to Kyrgyzstan, but also the United States, Western Europe and Russia. What we see now, is beyond the agreements. We have about a hundred acting cooperation agreements with Turkey. Maybe they think that Turkish lyceums, schools, foundations, businesses are associated with Gülen? Even so, it is necessary to prove that they are working against the Turkish leadership. The legislation of the Kyrgyz Republic includes liability for propaganda, inciting hatred, calling for the overthrow of power. Arguments of the Minister must be proved but these are allegations so far," the expert stressed.

Sheradil Baktygulov added that if our citizens do not study at Turkish high schools, it will be not Kyrgyzstan who will suffer in the first place. "Graduates are the soft power. If Turkey decides not to permit their further education, it will lose influence in Central Asia. There are already no relations between Turkey and Uzbekistan, and it has developed construction business with Turkmenistan. Turkey's position is strong enough in Kyrgyzstan. But, as the saying goes, a holy place is never empty. You should not threaten us. Kyrgyzstan can not just close the high schools and universities. Presidential power in the Kyrgyz Republic is not as strong as in Turkmenistan or Azerbaijan. This will cause a great response. "Sebat" has no anti-Kyrgyz or anti-Turkish ideas," he said.

It should be noted that Azerbaijan gave rein to the Turkish minister and began fighting with Gülen followers. Ankara is waiting for the same obedience from others. "We expect similar steps from our friends. Supporters of Gülen are dangerous for everyone, including those countries where they stay. We urge you not to create conditions for Gülen supporters and choose friendship with Turkey," the Prime Minister of Turkey Binali Yildirim said.

Alarm bell

Swordplay between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Turkey divided society into two camps. Some oppose "Sebat" and demand closure of that schools and high schools, others argue that "Sebat" has become a bargaining chip in the geopolitical confrontation and attempt of Ankara to impose their will on the weaker neighbors. However, the question of the elimination of Gülen educational system was raised before the failed overthrow of Erdogan. After the mass poisoning of students of a lyceum in 2015, MPs suggested to check the activity of all Turkish institutions and to close them in case of violations.

According to the then deputy Zhyldyzkan Dzholdoshova, Erdogan spoke very negatively about these schools. "It says a lot. It is necessary to check the high schools. We must create a government commission, or the law enforcement agencies should check it. And not only their catering, but also what they teach our children," she added.

However, graduates of "Sebat" argue that they have been never taught theological subjects, but students have shown good results and become winners of various educational competitions. For example, Chyngyz Tilebaldiev won a bronze medal at the 12th International Junior Science Olympiad (IJSO-2015) in South Korea. Other guys have won five gold and six bronze medals at the World Scholar's Cup. The piggy bank of Kyrgyzstan's "Sebat" has 24 medals from Inventors' Olympiad in Malaysia, including five gold ones.

Money or brains?

No one is going to close Turkish lyceums so far. Who would think of being deprived of highly skilled professionals and pander the "brain drain"? But it is not good for Kyrgyzstan to quarrel with Turkey. No one can predict the end of the story. What will prevail here: the desire to keep the clever fellows in home land in order to exploit the received at "Sebat" knowledge or the desire to preserve the flow of Turkish investments?

Published on 24 News Agency, 27 July 2016, Wednesday