ASTANA (TCA) — During his visit to Turkey on August 5, Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev vowed to send back to Turkey anyone at Kazakh schools found to have “terror links” to an exiled cleric Turkey blames for a failed coup attempt, RFE/RL reported.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan blames the reclusive cleric Fethullah Gulen, who lives in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania, for orchestrating a July 15 coup attempt in Turkey, and has urged Astana to purge Gulen followers in 33 Gulen-run schools in Kazakhstan.
“If anyone among them is linked with terrorism…we will respond to Turkey’s demands,” Nazarbayev said during a joint press conference with Erdogan in Ankara.
But Nazarbayev stopped short of saying he would shut the schools down as Erdogan wants. He said the schools in Kazakhstan are already “under state control” and 90 percent of the teachers are Kazakh, not Turkish.
“We do not support anyone working against Turkey. This is not in our interest,” he said. “If there are teachers with links, we will send them back and ask the Turkish government to send other teachers.”
Turkey is seeking extradition of Gulen from the United States, where he is receiving medical treatment. The cleric strongly denies that he ordered a coup and says he, in fact, strongly opposed it and said so at the time.
Gulen and his followers say their movement promotes peace, education, moderate Islam, and democracy, not the violent overthrow of governments.
At the press conference with Nazarbayev, Erdogan said the leaders agreed their education ministries will carry out a joint review of Kazakh schools linked to Gulen, apparently with an eye toward purging Gulen-linked staff.
Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan are the only two countries in mostly Turkic-speaking Central Asia where Gulenist educational institutions still have a significant presence.
Less than two weeks after the coup, Turkey warned Kyrgyzstan of the risk of a coup, claiming Gulenists had infiltrated every state institution in the country.
Kyrgyzstan’s foreign ministry responded by saying it would take note of warnings on education but reminded Ankara it was an “independent, sovereign state.”