At least 3 000 children affected as Senegal closes schools linked to Turkish cleric in exile

accreditation
(iStock)
(iStock)

Dakar - Senegal's government has closed more than a dozen schools linked to a man the Turkish government considers a terrorist, underlining Turkey's growing influence in predominantly Muslim West Africa.

At least 3 000 children in Senegal have been affected as Turkey reduces the influence of Fethullah Gulen, who is labeled a terrorist by Turkey's government.

The schools closed last year were linked to Hizmet, a moderate Islamic movement developed from the teachings of Gulen, a Turkish cleric living in exile in the U.S. and accused by the Turkish government of being behind a 2016 coup attempt.

The issue has taken center stage in West Africa with the recent visit by Turkey's president. About 30 countries have been affected in Africa.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited Algeria, Mauritania, Senegal and Mali recently, meeting with heads of state and bringing along Turkish business leaders to increase investments in Africa. Erdogan pointedly thanked the countries for closing the Gulen-affiliated schools.

"Most of the countries that were exploited by the (Gulen) terror organization were in Africa," Erdogan said at the beginning of the week-long trip. Schools in Gambia, Guinea, Somalia, Chad, Mauritania, Niger, Gabon, Senegal and now Mali have been transferred to his government's Maarif Foundation, he said.

KEEP UPDATED on the latest news from around the continent by subscribing to our FREE newsletter, Hello Africa.

FOLLOW News24 Africa on Twitter and Facebook.

In Senegal, the Maarif Foundation opened three new schools.

Gulen had a large footprint abroad: A report from Turkish intelligence says that the Gulen network had about 2,800 schools, education institutions, foundations, NGOs and hospitals in about 170 countries.

The school closures in Africa will be seen in Turkey as a positive step in the fight against Gulen, said Emre Caliskan, a researcher at Oxford University specializing in Turkey and Africa relations.

But schools are only a part of Turkey's efforts to strengthen its footprint in Africa. Turkey has increased its embassies in Africa from 12 in 2003 to 41 today.

"Turkey needs the support of African countries and other nations in the United Nations," said Caliskan.

Murat Kadir, a coordinator for the Maarif Foundation in Senegal, said only some of the students from the former Gulen schools have transferred to the three schools the foundation opened in November 2017 with about 120 students in Senegal. They plan to add two more, he said.

The remainder of the 3 000 students whose schools were closed in Senegal has had to find other institutions.

Fady Ndao, whose 16-year-old daughter studied at a Gulen school, College Sultan, before it was closed said she chose to go to a Senegalese school instead of transferring to the new Turkish government one in Dakar.

"If it is for political reasons, that is truly not right," she said of the school closures. "We are Senegalese in Senegal. We have a right to choose a good education here."

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24
Lockdown For
DAYS
HRS
MINS
Voting Booth
Should pension fund members be allowed to access their savings before retirement?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Results
Yes, it's their money to do with as they please.
34% - 1158 votes
No, more people will end up without enough savings in retirement.
37% - 1230 votes
Depends on how big the withdrawal limits will be.
29% - 972 votes
Vote
Rand - Dollar
14.38
-0.4%
Rand - Pound
19.97
-0.3%
Rand - Euro
17.02
-0.2%
Rand - Aus dollar
10.61
-0.3%
Rand - Yen
0.13
-0.1%
Gold
1,812.19
+0.1%
Silver
25.40
-0.5%
Palladium
2,668.46
+0.6%
Platinum
1,028.00
-2.4%
Brent Crude
72.41
-0.7%
Top 40
62,750
+0.3%
All Share
68,898
+0.3%
Resource 10
71,750
+0.8%
Industrial 25
86,237
+0.1%
Financial 15
13,095
-0.3%
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.

LEARN MORE