Turkish Deputy PM says he will not visit Gülen amid ‘prep school tension’
ISTANBUL – Doğan News Agency
CİHAN photoDeputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç has said that he will not visit Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen during his trip to the United States, amid tension between the Gülen movement and the government over the possible closure of private “dershane” examination prep schools.
“I would like to visit Fethullah Gülen, who lives close to New York, but this time I won’t visit him. The current situation is not suitable for that in terms of the political dimension,” Arınç said at Istanbul’s Atatürk International Airport before departing on Nov. 20.
The deputy prime minister last made a visit to Islamic scholar Gülen, who has lived in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania since the late 1990s, in May, during an official visit to the U.S.
The debate over the Turkish government’s recent move to shut down prep schools has been growing, with a war of words ongoing between the administration on the one hand and Gülen supporters and private education representatives on the other. The move is widely considered to be an intervention in the Gülen “Hizmet” (Service) movement’s educational establishments.
“Prep schools are commercial institutions, the Hizmet movement might have acted differently, but we have to look at the issue in a rational way,” Arınç said.
“He says he loves our prime minister and praises his actions. The esteemed [Gülen] says prep schools should not be shut down. The decision we take will not harm anyone, and there is no benefit of stoking this issue anymore. Nobody should turn this issue against the government with tweets and lying articles,” he added.
Arınç also said main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu’s defense of prep schools was “contradictory,” stating that leftist ideology was known for its anti-private education stance.
“It is contradictory that they all passionately defend prep schools,” the deputy prime minister said.
On Nov. 19, Gülen sent a message to President Abdullah Gül protesting the closure of the schools, according to the editor of herkul.org, a website that broadcasts his speeches.
“These institutions are the work of the nation. They should not close, but serve the nation … It doesn’t matter who manages these institutions, as long as they serve the nation,” Gülen said, according to herkul.org editor Osman Şimşek, who posted the statements on Twitter after getting confirmation from Gülen.
After a Cabinet meeting on Nov. 18, Arınç had said the government would reevaluate its work on the controversial closure of the prep schools “together with the related parties.”