Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan will not close schools linked to Turkish cleric

BISHKEK (TCA) — As the Turkish government has asked countries around the world to close schools linked to Fethullah Gulen, the Muslim cleric whom Turkey accuses of being behind a failed coup attempt last month, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan have rejected the request.  

In Central Asia, where Turkey has important cultural and political connections, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan are the only two states still hosting Gülen-linked institutions, Catherine Putz wrote in The Diplomat on August 1. Over the years the other states in the region gradually closed their Gülen-linked schools. In Uzbekistan, the movement to shut the network out predated Gülen’s fallout with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Last year Tajikistan pulled the plug on seven schools.

Late in July, Ankara warned that the Gülen network – supported by the United States – would foment a coup in Kyrgyzstan. Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev responded by saying: “If Turkey is so smart, why did it miss a coup?” He went on by saying, “That’s absurd to say that a coup threatens Kyrgyzstan. Don’t bully us! If there is information about possible problems, we will check it.”

Last week, Turkey’s Ambassador to Kazakhstan Nevzat Uyanik raised the issue of “Kazakhstani-Turkish schools” believed to be run by foundations loyal to the 75-year-old Gulen’s ideas, saying that Ankara does not support them, RFE/RL reported.

“These schools have no relationship to Turkey’s official state organs whatsoever,” Uyanik told a news conference in the Kazakh capital Astana on July 29.

He called the July 15 coup attempt in Turkey “a warning to other countries,” adding that “we are sure that the relevant bodies will start taking the necessary measures.”

Kazakh authorities responded, however, that the Gülen schools would remain open. The Kazakh Education Ministry said in a statement that these schools (27) will continue working, and their students and their parents should not fear that they could close down. The schools were established by a bilateral deal signed by Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev and then-Turkish President Turgut Özal shortly after Kazakhstan’s independence.

Sergey Kwan