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Gulenist ‘witch hunt’

After the arrests of Turkish army officers stationed on the island, the hunt for Gulenists – supporters of ousted US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen – seems to have been extended to the school system in the north, with the Turkish Education Foundation referring to there being possible Gulen supporters in schools.

On Tuesday, the office of Turkey’s Attorney General had requested the arrests of more Turkish officers stationed in Cyprus, raising the number of apprehensions to 29.

The officers are accused of being members of the so-called Fethullah Gulen organisation, with the cleric having been named by Turkish officials as the mastermind behind the failed coup that took place in Turkey on July 15.

On Wednesday, an announcement made by Cem Zorlu, the president of the Turkish Education Foundation, which is in charge of Turkish schools outside the country, raised suspicions that the clampdown on possible Gulen supporters would extend to parts of the Turkish Cypriot community, starting with the education system in the north.

In his announcement, Cem Zorlu said there might be supporters of Gulen’s so-called organisation in the north and that they were in contact with Turkish Cypriot authorities in order to deal with the matter.

As reported by Turkish Cypriot Newspaper Havadis, the statement has drawn reactions in the Turkish Cypriot community, reigniting an older discussion surrounding the creation of religious schools in the north.

Head of the Turkish Cypriot tertiary education teachers’ union Tahir Gokcebel, who previously campaigned against religious high school Hala Sultan Ilahiyat, has said that some of the teaching staff had not been allowed to take up their duty at the high school due to accusations of being affiliated with the Gulen organisation.

“When we spoke out about the threat, we were outcast,” added Gokcebel.

Head of the Turkish Cypriot elementary education teachers’ union, Sener Elcil, has said the whole issue confirms what they have been saying, and that there are indeed Fethullah-affiliated schools and that Hala Sultan Ilahiyat may be one of them.

On behalf of the coalition, the head of the education office in the north, Ozdemir Berova, has confirmed that a visit to Cyprus by the Foundation has taken place, but denied having had any meeting with them.

“We never said that there is a Gulen school in the north,” added Berova.

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