Azerbaijan shuts down ‘Gülen-linked’ schools
BAKU, Azerbaijan - Anadolu Agency
Azerbaijan’s government-run energy company has announced that private schools run by affiliates of the movement led by U.S.-based Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen have been closed down.
From February to April, the State Oil Company of the Azerbaijan Republic (SOCAR) took over dozens of private high schools, university exam preparation centers and universities run by a Turkish education company called Çağ Ögretim, which is thought to be linked to the Gülen movement.
SOCAR announced on June 18 that it had decided to close the schools, which were operated by the company now known as Azerbaijan International Education Center, due to “high maintenance costs and difficulties in project management.”
In Azerbaijan, 13 schools, one university and 13 prep schools linked to Gülen affiliates had been operating. Two years ago all of these institutions were transferred to the Azerbaijan state oil company, SOCAR, but preserved their management, teachers and curriculum without any changes. Diplomatic sources said these schools were still operating and there were no changes in the administration’s view of them.
Pro-government newspapers have reported that the Gülen community has succeeded in “infiltrating” the Azeri state and is influencing the decision-making process of Turkey’s oil-rich neighbor.
In March, Azeri media reported that Elnur Aslanov, the head of President İlham Aliyev’s Political Analysis and Information Department, had been sacked over alleged links to the movement.
The move came after claims that Gülen’s network had infiltrated state institutions in Azerbaijan and established cohorts among politicians.
Tension between Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Gülen, former allies, has been simmering for years, but boiled over after the government’s decision to close private test prep schools (dershanes) across the country.
The move to shut down the test prep schools came amid Erdoğan’s struggle against what he calls the “parallel state,” which he accuses of plotting against the government through corruption and graft claims.
The rift between the government and the Gülen movement was crystalized on Dec. 17, 2013, when massive graft investigations were initiated by prosecutors and police chiefs allegedly linked to Gülen.
Thousands of people, including Erdoğan, national intelligence chief Hakan Fidan and a wide range of journalists, academics, business leaders and nongovernmental organization representatives, have been wiretapped for years by the police as part of different probes, Turkish media claimed Feb. 24.