Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has warned parents in Africa against keeping their children at the Nigeria Turkish International Colleges (NTIC) among other Turkish-run schools in Africa. This is as he described the owners of the schools as terrorists.
Mr. Erdogan said this in an exclusive interview with AllAfrica.com prior to a three-country official visit to Sudan, Chad and Tunisia this week.
He said the schools were run by an organisation that uses education as a façade to hide their real intent.
The schools are linked to United States based Cleric, Fethullah Gulen, a former ally of Mr Erdogan turn arch-rival. Mr. Erdogan accused Mr. Gulen as being the mastermind of the July 2016 attempted coup that left 250 people dead. Mr. Gulen has denied the accusations.
“Without any further ado, I will like to mention something. Whether your nephews, nieces and your children, do not send them to either one of these network schools,” Mr. Erdogan said.
“Education is just a disguise for the terrorists working for these organisations, even religion is a disguise for the Fethullahists. In the Quran, Allah condemned those who are using prayers as disguise as they will never be conscientious to the practice of prayer that is why we would remain alert. We would never be manipulated. The coup plotters are the Fethullahists.
“They have all been identified and some of them have been sentenced to aggravated life imprisonment. These Fethullahists came to kill me and my family members but Allah protected us and in a matter of minutes we were saved from their bombs, their attacks but two of my security guarded were killed… there are 29 martyrs around the presidential complex which was attacked that night as well.
“We are warning all our brothers in Africa not to be deceived because the Fethullahists have great sums of money out of their actions. In 1999, the Chief terrorist, fled to the United States to live in Pennsylvania. We have demanded his extradition immediately.”
Mr. Erdogan threatened that if the United States refuses to extradite Mr. Gulen to face terrorism charges in Turkey, he would reject any demand made by the United States for Turkey to extradite terrorists to the United States.
“We have amassed 85 boxes filled with evidence proving that he was the major perpetrator of the coup but he has not been extradited yet. But tomorrow if the United States asked for the extradition of a terrorist I will say no to them because this man is the killer of 252 martyrs, 292 veterans; still residing in the United States.”
Mr. Erdogan said the Turkish government has established an education foundation to take control of the schools linked with Mr. Gulen. He said the policy is already working well in the countries he will be visiting.
Many African countries, including Nigeria have, however, turned down Mr. Erdogan’s requests to either take control or close schools linked to Mr Gulen.
Soon after the attempted coup, the Turkish Ambassador to Nigeria, Hakan Cakil, called on the Nigerian government to close 17 Turkish schools. His request was however turned down by the government.
In a statement in October, Nigeria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, confirmed that the Nigerian government indeed received a request for the schools to be closed and for the extradition of Mr Gulen loyalists.
The minister said while Nigeria would not allow its territory to be used as breeding ground for terrorists, the country considered the dissidents political refugees who are protected by the United Nations.
“For the avoidance of doubt, the Ministry wishes to state in clear terms that, no such agreement was entered into.
“Every individual, of whatever nationality, legally residing in Nigeria is guaranteed full protection under Nigerian and international laws,” he said.
The presidency later explained that the ownership structure of many of the Turkish schools in Nigeria has been changed to put Nigerian partners in charge. With that, such schools spread across Nigeria have been renamed Nigeria Tulip International Colleges (NTIC).
Since the failed coup, the Turkish government has arrested tens of thousands of people including teachers and journalists amidst condemnation by international rights groups and countries.