Understanding shifts in Islamic interpretation in Turkey through Gulen-inspired Yamanlar High School

Erdoğan Regime shut down nearly 1400 foundations, associations, and schools belonging to the Gülen Movement. Yamanlar College, a high school, was one of the most emblematic ones. The college was the first college founded in the years when the movement was founded.

Starting to serve in the education field in 1982, the school preferred the modern education system. Cleric Mr. Gülen said to his followers that education is the fundamental problem of Turkey, and instead of building mosques or religious vocational high schools, they shall open modern schools.

Yamanlar College, the first school, established within this scope, became Turkey’s one of the most successful private schools. Afterward, the Gülen Movement founded 21 universities and nearly 1400 private schools in Turkey.

Erdogan accused the Gulen Movement in 2013 after the corruption operation targeted Erdogan’s four ministers and his son Bilal. These operations, known as the 17/25 December Corruption Operation, were closed with the dismissal of police and prosecutors.

Erdogan immediately sent the officers to the foundation schools belonged to the Gülen Movement to impose a fine, some of the schools were cut off the water, and some of the schools’ gardens were destroyed by constructing new roads.

The repression continued, and Erdogan started to confiscate the school administration. The complete confiscation of schools and the cessation of education took place after the controversial coup attempt on 15 July 2016.

Seizing all the power in his hands after the coup attempt in Turkey, Erdogan declared the State of Emergency and started the presidential system. Meantime, all the foundation schools owned by the Gülen Movement were closed down.

The Erdogan regime has transformed most of these schools into religious vocational high schools (Imam Hatip in Turkish), where teachers mostly teach Salafi beliefs. The Gülen Movement’s first school Yamanlar College was one of them.

An event held during the first days of 2020 has launched a new debate in Turkey over Yamanlar College’s transformation.

The Sıla Foundation organized a conference on Shariah in the premises of Yamanlar used in the past as a sports hall and theater. İhsan Şenocak, one of the speakers at the Sıla Foundation’s meeting, wanted a declaration war against Israel and called the government officials, “You walk towards Tel Aviv, we’ll come after you.” These words received great support from the hall.

One of the significant issues discussed in the meeting was covering the picture of the Republic of Turkey’s founder Kemal Ataturk in the hall.

People wearing turban and robes in the hall and the speeches made were on the axis of the change after the school, which had modern education in the past, was taken away from the Gülen Movement.

The education system in Turkey experienced significant changes in recent years. The Erdogan regime opened thousands of new religious vocational high schools, or the existing schools were turned into religious vocational high schools. Families complain about this, but the number of schools that provide modern education is decreasing day by day.
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Pregnant behind bars with a two-year-old kid

Elif Aydın, 31, is one of the educators arrested in Turkey over the past three years. She was two-months pregnant when she was sent to prison in the western province of Gebze on May 25, 2018. She also had two kids, 6 and 3 years old at that time.

She couldn’t leave behind her younger child, Musab; thus, she brought him along to prison. They did not provide a separate bed for her son in the eight-person ward. The pregnant woman stayed by sharing the same bed with his son in prison for months.

The pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) ‘s deputy Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, a prominent human rights activist, has been fighting for her release from prison.

Turkish law forbids the arrest of pregnant women; however, this ban has not been applied for suspects from the Gulen movement and of Kurdish origin.

Gergerlioğlu filed a complaint on July 1, 2018, with the Supreme Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) against the judge and prosecutor who gave the arrest decision for Elif Aydın. A response from HSYK to his complaint came 1.5 years later. They have not investigated it so far.

“By this decision, HSYK has become an accomplice to this crime,” Gergerlioğlu said.

Elif Aydın, on the other hand, is trying to be the voice of other arrested pregnant women by revealing what she had been through.

Aydın: “I fell downstairs twice”

“I was the director of a private student residence. That was the only accusation leveled against me. My husband had stayed in prison for a year over links to the Gulen movement. They arrested me nine months after he was released from jail. I left my older child behind and took Musab in prison with me. And I was pregnant with my third child. We all three were trying to sleep in the same bed.

“I fell downstairs twice and was taken to the hospital. My kid, Musab, also fell downstairs several times, and his face and eyes got hurt. The ward was an eight-person ward, but there were times also where nine people had been staying in our ward. The prison is tough for a woman with a child. It was summer, fortunately, when I was jailed, so we could spend most of our time in the yard. When it became colder, we had to stay inside.”

“There was no hygiene in prison. Musab’s eyes caught an infection. He hit his head on the bunk beds many times. He fell off the bunk bed, and he hurt his head and mouth. I was pregnant and was seeing all these (Musab had been through) so, I grew depressed.

“Many pregnant women were arrested like me. And, this is still going on. There are no special arrangements or facilities in place for pregnant women and children in prison. Life is quite hard in prison.”

Thousands of educators arrested

Erdogan’s regime mainly targeted well-educated people. About 1,400 Gulen-affiliated schools, kindergartens, student residences, and universities were shut down. Thirty thousand teachers were dismissed, and their licenses were revoked. Thousands of teachers were arrested.
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A Chat with Vonya Womack, a Human Rights Activist and Expert on Turkey and Its [Gulen Follower] Refugees

RICH FISHER

Following a recent coup attempt, more than 100,000 people were arrested and dismissed from their jobs in the Republic of Turkey. Turkey is also the world’s largest jailer of journalists; 300+ are now behind bars. Our guest is an expert on these and related matters: Vonya Womack teaches at Cabrini University in Pennsylvania and spoke recently at the Raindrop Turkish House in Broken Arrow, OK.

She spoke about her work as a human rights activist and about how she recently visited with Turkish political refugees in Greece. She tells us about these adventures on StudioTulsa.
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Turkish intelligence staged a rocket attack on Erdoğan’s palace to rally public support

Abdullah Bozkurt

Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MIT) appears to have staged a rocket attack on the palace of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan three days after a failed coup in order to bolster the perception that the threat of a putschist attempt was still alive and to rally public support for the government.

The incident took place on July 18, 2016 at 11:45 a.m. according to the police, when a military rocket was reported to have been fired at the fence next to Gate No. 3 of the presidential palace. The force of the blast bent the wrought iron bars of the fence, the report stated. The bomb squad was dispatched to the scene to examine the damage and collect fragments of the rocket from the palace garden. No casualties were reported.

A forensic examination of the rocket debris including “an electronic circuit board and motor parts” cited in a bomb squad report indicated that they were from a “US-made surface to air [XM41] series shoulder-fired … rocket.” The report was compiled on October 10, 2016 but submitted to the Ankara 4th High Criminal Court by Police Chief Ibrahim Özturk almost two years later, on May 2, 2018.

It turned out that the rockets were phased out by the Turkish military and the redundant munitions were turned over to MIT some 15 years ago according to Necip Erkul, a lieutenant who worked as an expert in military criminal laboratories before he was falsely charged with involvement in the failed coup.

The report reinforced the widely held belief that the limited mobilization on July 15, 2016 was nothing but a false flag operation plotted by MIT at the direction of Erdoğan, who wanted to consolidate his power under a newly instituted executive presidency and persecute his opponents. Erdoğan played the victim card in the aftermath of the abortive putsch, and his intelligence service appears to have orchestrated the rocket attack in broad daylight on the most secure location in Ankara, which was monitored by security cameras and police and intelligence officers round the clock.

Click below link to read more.
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8-year-old cancer patient departs to Germany for treatment without parents due to ongoing travel ban

Ahmet Burhan Ataç, an eight-year-old kid departed to Germany on Sunday for cancer treatment without his parents as the father is in prison and the mother is subject to a travel ban over alleged Gulen links.

According to the reports, Ataç’s grandmother will accompany him during his treatment.

The child’s mother, Zekiye, who has long been calling for the removal of the travel ban so that she can accompany her son during his treatment, posted a video after she saw Ahmet off at the airport. In tears, the mother said: “Ahmet did not want to go to Germany without me. I told him I would come in two weeks. My son was dying before my eyes. … I am appealing to the authorities: Please don’t keep me separated from my son.”

Ataç came to public attention in Turkey due to a campaign to secure the release of her husband, Harun, who was convicted of terrorist organization membership and sentenced to more than nine years in prison in November 2018.

The couple faced prosecution for having worked at a dormitory that had links to the Gülen movement, accused by the Turkish government of masterminding a failed coup in July 2016. The movement strongly denies any involvement.

Zekiye Ataç was also jailed for two-and-a-half months on charges of being a Gülen movement follower. She was briefly detained in October.

Ahmet Burhan has been suffering from osteoid cancer for more than a year, which has now spread to his lungs. The woman has been calling for the release of her husband at least during the appeals process so that her son can be with his father during the treatment.

On Oct. 2 Zekiye Ataç had spoken to Euronews Turkish service about her social media campaign to have her husband released. In the interview she had said the child’s disease was discovered after his father’s arrest in March 2018 and that he needs his father to be with him to aid in his recovery.
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Fethullah Gulen’s “old friend” detained by İzmir police despite suffering from advanced Alzheimer’s disease

An 81-year-old Turkish man, who is known as a “longtime friend of Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen, was detained by police in the Turkish province of İzmir on Monday due to his links to the Gülen group.

According to the Gulen-friendly tr724 news website, Yusuf Pekmezci, who suffers from advenced Alzheimer’s disease, high blood pressure and osteoporosis, was in hiding for three years.

He is currenlty being held in police custody.

Pekmezci came to public attention with a 2014 interview he gave in which he talked about his love for the movement and Fethullah Gülen.
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Erdogan critic calls jailing of his mother and brother ‘perverse’ and ‘politically motivated’

Jamie Prentis

A high-profile critic of the Turkish government has described the jailing of his 75-year-old mother and brother to a combined 91-year sentence as “ludicrous” and “perverse”.

Akin Ipek said the ‘human rights abuses’ against his family were unacceptable in any civilised country.

Akin Ipek’s brother Cafer Teken Ipek was sentenced to 79 years and nine months at an Ankara court earlier this month on terror charges. His mother, Melek, was given 11 years and eight months on similar charges.

“My brother has been in prison throughout this period, held on baseless grounds without any evidence and with no access to justice. My 75-year-old mother is a quiet woman who has dedicated her life to opening up educational opportunities for thousands of young people; now, she has also been sentenced on politically motivated charges,” Mr Ipek said.

He said the accusations against his family were not based on a “single shred of evidence” and “part of a cruel campaign of harassment and intimidation against me, my family and my employees”.

“They are the latest evidence of a total collapse of the rule of law in Turkey, where justice no longer exists, and are a flagrant breach of Turkey’s international obligations,” he said.

UK-based Akin Ipek had parts of his multi-billion dollar empire Koza Ipek Group seized by Turkish authorities in 2015 amid allegations he is linked to the banned Gulen movement, which Turkey’s government has branded a terrorist organisation. Mr Ipek denies all charges levelled at him.

British authorities in 2018 turned down an extradition request by the Turkish regime for Mr Ipek because it was “politically motivated”.

The Erdogan regime has embarked on a purge of supposed critics in recent years, especially since a failed coup in 2016 that has been blamed on Gulenists.

“The human rights abuses against my family and employees – as well as the thousands of other businessmen, judges, civil servants and journalists who are facing jail – are unacceptable for any civilised country and action must be taken urgently to end this,” Mr Ipek said.

The wife of Cafer Teken Ipek and several Koza Ipek executives were also jailed.

“History will remember the Erdoğan regime for its crimes against humanity and its persecution of the innocent. I’m today calling on the Erdoğan regime to honour democracy and the rule of law, to release my mother and brother immediately, to respect the international tribunal ruling and to halt proceedings against my family,” he added.

The Erdogan regime has purged thousands of judges since 2016 leading to accusations the Turkish judicial system is corrupt and state-controlled.
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Those not supporting Erdogan regime labelled as Gulen follower, given harsh punishment

New Delhi [India], Dec 26 (ANI): M Behzad Fatmi, a Turkish political expert and commentator, has said that those people who are not throwing their weight behind the government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan are given a very severe punishment and is dubbed as a follower of the US-based Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen, whose Gulen movement has been blamed by Ankara for the failed 2016 coup bid and is designated as a "terrorist organisation.

The scribe said that Ankara’s crackdown on Gullen followers amounts to “social and economic genocide” and asserted that the self-exiled scholar had no connection in the coup d’etat aimed at overthrowing the Erdogan regime.

“The Turkish government’s actions against the followers of Fethullah Gulen can easily be described as social and economic genocide. After more than three years of the so-called coup attempt of July 15, 2016, it is absolutely clear that Gulen had no connection whatsoever with the dreadful events of the night. He has been made a scapegoat in order to crush all opposition voices in the country,” Fatmi said in an e-mail interview to ANI.

“Using him, the Erdogan regime is not only punishing his followers but also the Kurds, the liberals and the Kemalists. Anyone who is not subservient to the regime is labelled a Gulen follower and given harshest of punishments,” he added.

The journalist lauded Gulen movement, also called the Hizmet movement, for its key contributions in various fields including education and poverty alleviation.

“As far as Gulen himself is concerned, he is a renowned Islamic scholar who has inspired a global social movement called the Hizmet/Gulen movement. The Hizmet movement is known for its remarkable achievements in the fields of education, interfaith and intercultural dialogue and poverty alleviation,” Fatmi outlined.

Slamming the government over the economic turmoil in Turkey, Fatmi said that the authoritarian rule of the Erdogan regime has turned the country into any other “Middle East” country from a “model state” in the region. He also said that Turkey competes with Iran and China in jailing scribes despite being a NATO member and a candidate country of the European Union.

“It is a shame that the party under which Turkey’s economy boomed for almost a decade has now brought the country’s economy to a crisis. The Erdogan regime’s insistence on remaining in power regardless of their ability to properly govern the country has made Turkey just another Middle Eastern state from the “model state” in the region. No country that has a head of state as authoritarian and intolerant as Recep Tayyip Erdogan can progress. Despite being a full member of NATO and a candidate country of the European Union, Turkey under Erdogan competes with Iran and China in jailing journalists,” he said.

“With erosion on democracy in the country, Turkey’s economy was bound to fail and it has failed,” Fatmi added.

Asked whether former Turkish prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu, once a close Erdogan ally, would be able to defeat the Turkish strongman in the next general election scheduled for 2023, Fatmi remarked that it is too early to speculate but said the former should be given a chance to prove himself.

“It is too early to say whether Ahmet Davutoglu would be a good alternative to Erdogan. After all, Turkey’s drift towards authoritarianism had already started when Davutoglu was the prime minister of the country. It was during his time as the prime minister (2014 to 2016) that some prominent media outlets were raided and forced to go offline by the police,” said the Turkish political writer.

>”During his tenure as foreign minister, Turkey adopted disastrous foreign policies like trying to topple Bashar al Assad regime by supporting radical elements in Syria. Having said this, it is also important to note that trying to create an alternative by forming a rival party to Erdogan’s AKP is a bold step by Davutoglu. Perhaps he is attempting to undo some of the blunders he has committed with Erdogan. He should be given a chance to prove himself,” he further said.

Davutoglu had resigned as prime minister in 2016 after a document dubbed as the ‘Pelican Files’ was leaked detailing points of contention between him and Erdogan.<br />He resigned from the AKP earlier this month and formed a new party called the Future’s Party.

The 60-year-old Erdogan foe had also served as foreign minister from 2009 to 2014 and as Erdogan’s chief advisor.

Davutoglu has accused the Turkish strongman of economic mismanagement and said he decided to form his own party to fight against the “cult of the leader” politics in the country. (ANI)
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‘I don’t have a home right now’: Turkish NBA player Enes Kanter talks activism, basketball

Benjamin Blum

Physical and mental toughness are part of the job description for NBA centres, who over a lengthy season constantly battle for every inch of space on the hardwood.

But compared to the real-life dangers Enes Kanter contends with as a consequence of speaking out against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, boxing out seven-footers for rebounds may seem inconsequential by comparison.

“I don’t have a home right now,” Kanter told CBC News Network’s Steve Niles on Tuesday. “If I was anywhere else besides in America, besides Canada, yes, I believe my life could be in danger because I get death threats almost every day [from] Erdogan’s goons.

“When I say something, it goes viral — and they hate that, the Turkish government hates that.”

Kanter and the Boston Celtics were in Toronto to face the Raptors in a highly anticipated Christmas Day matchup, but the 27-year-old’s participation wasn’t a sure thing. The Swiss-born Turkish athlete hasn’t travelled outside the U.S. in years for fear of reprisal due to his criticisms of Erdogan.

In an opinion column in the Globe and Mail on Monday, Kanter announced he would play in Toronto and thanked Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government as well as other officials in Canada and the United States for ensuring his safety.

“Just stepping outside of America, just feeling this air and I’m like, ‘You know what? I feel really free,’” Kanter said about his arrival in Toronto. “Just enjoying that moment with my teammates it was definitely amazing.”

Kanter’s arrival in Canada was welcome news for Janice Stein, founding director of the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy at the University of Toronto.

“That everybody co-operated and he did get a permit both to come into Canada but to go back into the United States and afterwards is a really heartening story,” Stein told CBC News’s Olivia Stefanovich. “There are millions of stateless people in the world who are trapped where they are and cannot move.

“The fact that Canada made this effort, made this arrangement, is a heartening story. Not only for Enes Kanter and not only for basketball but for anybody who finds himself in the position that Kanter does.”

Following Wednesday’s game, Kanter tweeted his thanks to the Canadian government.  

Can’t express my gratitude to the Canadian people, government and @JustinTrudeau for welcoming me to Canada.What an amazing, warm and respectful country. Thanks for accepting Turkish refugees into Canada as they escape #DictatorErdogan ‘s oppression! pic.twitter.com/sQmEOF5QgZ— Enes Kanter (@EnesKanter) December 25, 2019

Relationship with Turkish cleric at centre of dispute

Kanter is a vocal supporter of Fethullah Gülen, a Turkish Islamic cleric and former ally of Erdogan now considered by Ankara to be a terrorist. Gülen, who currently lives in Pennsylvania, is accused by the Turkish government of organizing a 2016 coup attempt; since then, Erdogan has cracked down on Gülen’s supporters in the country.

“I’ve been going to see [Gülen’s] movement school since second grade so I grew up in this movement,” Kanter said. “Whenever I go visit him, we always talk about how can we make this world better together — that’s the key word.”

Kerim Uras, Turkey’s ambassador to Canada, told CBC News that Ankara is “not very happy” about Kanter’s arrival in Canada. “There’s not much we can do, actually — except for being disappointed,” Uras said. “Maybe we might have raised this issue privately with [the Canadian government] but it’s not an official representation.

“Because he is condoning terrorism and a supporter of a proscribed terrorist organization, we think it isn’t a good idea, but it’s the sovereign decision of Canada.”

When asked about Uras’s claim he is “glorifying terrorism,” Kanter told Stefanovich: “The only thing I terrorize is the basketball rim.”

In 2017, Kanter said he had to flee Indonesia — where he was running a basketball camp — for fear of being kidnapped and sent to Turkey. After a stopover in Singapore, he was detained at an airport in Romania and was told his passport was cancelled by the Turkish government.

While he was able to return to the U.S. thanks to officials from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and others, tensions with Erdogan — whom he referred to as the “Hitler of our century” — and his regime didn’t end there.

“I’m lucky I got the news early, but there are lots of families out there all over the news that they are getting kidnapped in Indonesia, Malaysia, Bosnia, and they send them to Turkey and they are being jailed,” he said.

Uras denied Kanter’s claims his passport was revoked and Turkey issued an Interpol Red Notice for his provisional arrest. 

“It’s in our law; you cannot deny a Turkish citizen a passport,” he said.

“It might be for a short duration to return to Turkey, but you have to give a passport.”

‘Dark period’ in Turkish history, expert says

Stein was critical of Erdogan’s human rights record in the years since the attempted coup. “The state of human rights in Turkey is now worse than it has been at any point in its modern history,” she said. 

“So Enes Kanter’s story has credibility because he is one of probably 150,000 journalists, academics, lawyers, judges, military people who have lost their rights over the last several years in Turkey under President Erdogan.”

Kanter said there have also been consequences for his family for his actions. He said his father and sister both lost their jobs, and according to Turkey’s state-run news agency Anadolu, his father was charged with “membership in a terror group.”

“The last time I saw my family was back in 2015, and last time I talked to them — I don’t even remember,” Kanter said.

“My family had to put a statement out there and said we are disowning Enes, but the Turkish government didn’t believe that. They sent police to my house in Turkey and they raided the whole house.”

Stein said Kanter is only controversial in the eyes of the Turkish government.

“President Erdogan has branded hundreds of thousands of people as enemies of Turkey, as sympathetic to terrorism,” she said. “But the net has been cast so broadly, and there has been show trials, very limited due process, and so many of the people that were arrested remain in jail and unaccounted for.

“This is a dark period in the history of modern Turkey.”

‘What we’re trying to do is working’

Basketball and activism go hand-in-hand for the six-foot-ten centre, who off the court was wearing a pair of signature Nike shoes gifted to him by Colin Kaepernick, the former NFL quarterback who kneeled during the U.S. national anthem to protest police brutality and racial injustice.

Kanter often writes the word “freedom” on his basketball shoes while playing.

“I play in the NBA so they know what’s going on in my life, but I’m trying to use my platform to be a voice of all those innocent people out there who don’t have a voice,” Kanter said.

On the court, Kanter has proven to be a solid contributing member of the second-place Celtics. Heading into Wednesday’s game, Kanter is averaging 7.8 points per game and 7.3 rebounds primarily off the bench; over Boston’s previous three games — all wins — he’s averaged 14.6 rebounds and had his first 20-point game of the season earlier this month.

During the past off-season, Kanter said he “criss-crossed the U.S. to hold 50 free youth basketball camps in 30 states to teach kids leadership, teamwork and sportsmanship, even though Turkish consulates across the U.S., in addition to pro-Erdogan groups, tried to intimidate venues into cancelling my camps.”

Uras, however, reiterated his government’s position on Kanter. “When we listen to Mr. Kanter, we see not the innocent basketball player as he’s presenting himself to be, but rather an unbalanced character,” he said.

Kanter said he hopes to hold similar clinics in Canada, but his current focus while in the country is helping Boston earn a win over the reigning NBA champions during the league’s hallmark day.

“I think when I step on that court it’s going to give me so much hope that … we are accomplishing something. I think what we’re trying to do is working,” Kanter said.

“I think it’s so important for me to just go out there [today] and just represent freedom.”
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Romanian Judge Blocks Extradition of Second Arrested ‘Gulenist’

Marcel Gascón Barberá

A Romanian judge has blocked the extradition to Turkey of a Turkish schools director linked to the man accused by Ankara of orchestrating a failed 2016 coup, hours after the director was arrested on Tuesday.

Fatih Gursoy, 50, is the director of a network of schools in Romania called Lumina and which is linked to Fethullah Gulen, a US-based cleric accused by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of trying to overthrow him in July 2016. 

The failed putsch unleashed a wide-ranging crackdown in Turkey and a global hunt for so-called Gulenists by the long arm of Turkish law.

“The most important charge against me was that I am the leader of a terrorist organisation in Romania,” Gursoy said after the judge’s ruling. 

“If anyone can come and prove that in these 25 years of academic activity we have damaged the interests of Romania, Turkey or any other state, I am ready to close the institution myself.”

Lumina had earlier issued a statement accusing Ankara of pursuing a “witch-hunt”.

Gursoy’s arrest followed that of a 24-year-old teacher at a Bucharest high school belonging to the Gulen movement. Within hours of the December 18 arrest, a judge ruled against her extradition and she was freed.

Gulen denies any involvement in the coup attempt, but Turkish authorities have pursued his schools and their employees across the Balkans and beyond. 

In Turkey, roughly 150,000 civil servants, soldiers, police officers, teachers, judges and academics have been fired or suspended, while tens of thousands more have been jailed pending trial.
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