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After Yearlong Struggle, Turkey’s Crackdown Reaches Afghan Schools

Turkey’s global purge and the crackdown on Gulen-affiliated schools never show signs of abating. The latest attempt took place in Afghanistan on Sunday, with all the hallmarks of previous ones already displayed in various times in Turkey or other countries.

Early on Sunday, officials linked with Turkey’s state-run Maarif Foundation took control of two schools in Herat province of Afghanistan. In a submission to unyielding demands from Ankara, the Afghan Education Ministry already relinquished the control of a number of private Afghan-Turkish schools affiliated with the Gulen Movement to Ankara-backed Maarif Foundation earlier this year.

The decision set off a yearlong showdown between new officials and the families of students who were adamantly opposed to any takeover of the schools by Ankara.

Previous attempts to run schools hit a snag after families’ unflinching and stubborn resistance. But this Sunday, Maarif-linked officials came to the school, touching off a new episode of clashes between families and the Afghan authorities.

While Turkey’s efforts to seize Gulen-affiliated schools across the world mostly took place without much fuss, things in Afghanistan developed differently as families vowed to fight against the seizure as long as possible within their capacity.

The Sunday takeover resulted in a number of brief detentions, local media reported. Police and security forces laid a siege to all-girls and all-boys schools in Herat. A Turkish official working for
Afghan-Turkish school network divulged details of how the events transpired in schools with media.

Police blocked access to schools, assembled students to a gathering point and seized their cellphones to restrict diffusion of the news throughout media. They detained some teachers and students who attempted to resist those attempts.

When news of the crackdown filtered through social media and the local community, parents of students began to amass outside schools. The committee of student families was summoned by the provincial education bureau of the Afghan government in Herat for consultations and briefing. An official who talked to AST on the condition of anonymity claimed that the summoning served as a distraction as Afghan authorities descended on one of the schools’ principal office at the same time to finalize the management change.

They even held a symbolic ceremony for the commencement of new administrators. When police and security forces left the school, graduates, students and a group of families forced the newly installed Maarif officials out of the school after a brief scuffle.

Maarif directors took refuge in armed vehicles of Afghan security forces outside one of the schools. A melee followed thereafter as graduated schools displayed their fury against the takeover of the school.

This invited a large force of reinforcements as top education official in Herat sought new forces to break up the protest and suppress the resistance by families. The deployment of additional police forces within school sparked some clashes. The police forcefully detained many students.

As things escalated into some violent showdown, more than 400 people assembled outside the school to demand the release of detained students.

So far now, no Turkish teachers were taken into custody, something that always occurred in other countries where such school takeovers took place.

In first official remarks on the incident, Herat Governor’s Spokesman Jelani Farhad confirmed that security forces carried out a court order against Gulen-linked schools. He also acknowledged that the raid was conducted to change the school director.

But the official denied any wrongdoing and insisted that the whole takeover took place as part of an official agreement between the governments Afghanistan and Turkey.

Afghan-Turk Cag Educational (ATCE), an NGO that previously ran the schools, condemned the police raid, portraying it as a move incompatible with civil law, constitution, the criminal code of the country, not to speak of international norms.

Turkey’s yearlong efforts were repeatedly foiled by a group of determinant families. The attitude displayed by student parents and NGOs defending education rights of the Afghan people offer some form of a solace in a country where civil society barely exists. In a repudiation of the perception that civil society is just a letter on paper, devoid of any substance, in Afghanistan, the families pledged to prolong their fight against Maarif’s brazen takeover.

A large-scale demonstration is expected to take place on Monday. Afghanistan, which goes through a decades-long war between Western-backed government forces and a resurgent Taliban, suffers a shortage of teachers and education facilities. In the face of depleted sources and tremendous hardships, the last thing Kabul needs is to alienate a group of volunteers and NGOs which, for their unswerving commitment to Afghan people, did not leave the country even in the face of a protracted and deadly war. Kabul should return the favor by ignoring Turkey’s norm-defying demand for the takeover of the schools, which have become beacons of success and advanced education.

We urge everyone to take action. Express your views or send attached letter or your own letter to following addresses:

You can find a sample letter at the following link.

https://silencedturkey.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/Letter_to_officials_erdogans_long_arm_in_afghanistan.pdf

You can find your U.S Senator at the following link.

https://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm

You can find your U.S Representatives at the link.

https://www.house.gov/representatives

1) Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, U.S. Helsinki Commission
Phone: 202-225-1901
Fax: 202-226-4199
Email: INFO@CSCE.GOV
Twitter: @HelsinkiComm
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/helsinkicommission/

Chairman: Senator Roger F. Wicker
Address and Contact:
555 Dirksen 555 Senate Office Building, Washington, DC 20510
Main: (202) 224-6253 |Fax: (202) 228-0378 | Twitter: @SenatorWicker
Email: senator@wicker.senate.gov

Co-Chairman: Representative Christopher H. Smith
Washington DC Office: 2373 Rayburn House Office Building Washington, D.C. 20515
Phone: (202) 225-3765 | Fax: (202) 225-7768 | Twitter: @RepChrisSmith
https://chrissmith.house.gov/contact/zipauth.htm

2) Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission
Phone: +1 (202) 225-3599
Fax: +1 (202) 226-5887
Email: TLHRC@mail.house.gov
Twitter: @TLHumanRights

3) Congressional Afghan Caucus
Phone: +1 (202) 225-2411
Fax: +1 (202) 225-2013
Federal Caucus Member: Pete King, pete.king@mail.house.gov,
Federal Caucus Member: Bill Pascrell, bill.pascrell@mail.house.gov

4) United Nations Human Rights Council (UN HRC)
Phone: (+41) 22 917 9656
Email: civilsociety@ohchr.org
Twitter: @UN_HRC
Website: www.ohchr.org/hrc

5) U.S. Department of State
Phone: (202) 647-6575
Email: https://register.state.gov/contactus/contactusform
Twitter: @StateDept
Website: https://www.state.gov/

6) Mike Pence, Vice President of the United States
Phone: 202-456-6213
Email: vice.president@whitehouse.gov
Twitter: @VP

7) Senator Cory Booker
Phone: (202) 224-3224
Fax: (202) 224-8378
Email: https://www.booker.senate.gov/?p=contact
Twitter:@SenBooker

AFGHANISTAN

1) President Ashraf Ghani
Twitter: @ashrafghani
Phone: 0202104444,
0202104445
Hamdullah Mohib, National Security Advisor (Former Afghanistan’s Ambassador to the United
States)
Twitter: @hmohib

2) Shah Hussain Murtazawi,
Acting Spokesperson for President’s Office
Phone: +93 (0) 728 998 907
Email: murtazawi84@yahoo.com

3) Salahuddin Rabbani. Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan
Address: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan,
Malek Asghar St. Kabul, Afghanistan
Phone: 0093 (0) 20 2100372,
0093 (0) 20 2100371
Email: info@mfa.af
Twitter: @mfa_afghanistan http://mfa.gov.af/en/form/contactus

4) Hamdullah Mohib, Afghanistan’s Ambassador to the United States
Address: Embassy of Afghanistan, 2341 Wyoming Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20008 Phone:
202-483-6410
Fax: 202-483-6488
Info@afghanembassy.us

Contact Us

5) Mahmoud SAIKAL, Ambassador and Permanent Representative Permanent Mission of
The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan in New York Address: 633 Third Avenue Floor 27A, New York,
NY 10017
Phone: 212-972 1212
Fax: 212-972 1216
@AfghanMissionUN
info@afghanistan-un.org

6) U.S. Embassy Kabul
Phone: (00 93) (0)700-10-8000
Fax: (00 93) (0)700-108-564 @USEmbassyKabul
KabulACS@state.gov

7) DR. ABDULLAH ABDULLAH(CEO)
Special Assistant Ahmet Zahit Anwari
0093700291626
0093202106803
a.z.anwari@ceo.gov.af
Sao@ceo.gov.af

8) Chief of Staff Abdul Kahar Abed
0093744200000
0093700281980
abed.qahar@gmail.com

9) Spoke person
Dr. Mucibur Rahman Rahimi
PH: 0093702103333
mujib.rahimi@ceo.af

10) Ministry of Foreign Affairs

0093202100372
0093202100371
Info@mfa.af

Social media posts on the raid:

HASHTAG
#DoNotPoliticizeAfghanSchools