The results of these municipal elections are being seen as a national referendum on Erdogan’s 11-year-old rule after massive street protests by the Opposition against his rule amid a slew of corruption allegations which have threatened to tarnish his reputation. The accusations, taking the form of leaked recordings of conversations mostly featuring the prime minister that were anonymously posted online, prompted Erdogan to crack down on social media and and journalists, according to the Washington Post.
Erdogan has accused his former ally Fethullah Gülen and his Gülen movement of orchestrating the corruption investigations against him and related media leaks as a "foreign conspiracy" against his rule. Gülen lives in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania and his followers have occupied positions in the police and the judiciary and are said to be leading the corruption investigation.
New York Times has recently reported that Mr. Erdogan's "power struggle with Mr. Gulen has upended Turkish politics, historically defined by the divisions between the secular and religious, by exposing a new fault line between two Islamist traditions that once united to push the military from politics through a series of sensational, and highly contentious, trials".
Gülen movement runs a large network of schools around the world, including a number of successful Pak-Turk schools in Pakistan. Mr. Erdogan is pursuing closure of Gulen schools around the world to punish Fethullah Gulen. In a recent television interview, Erdogan said he was in touch with Pakistani officials to shut down Pak-Turk Schools. In his TV interview, Erdoğan said the only topic of a recent meeting with Shahbaz Sharif was the activities of these schools in Pakistan. There are 18 Gülen-affiliated schools in Pakistan under the name Pak-Turk schools, according to Turkey's Hurriyet Daily News.
Gulen has tens of thousands of American children attending his schools. In a CBS 60 Minutes segment last year, here's how correspondent Leslie Stahl described Gulen schools in the United States: "Over the past decade scores of charter schools have popped up all over the U.S., all sharing some common features. Most of them are high-achieving academically, they stress math and science, and one more thing: they're founded and largely run by immigrants from Turkey who are carrying out the teachings of a Turkish Islamic cleric: Fethullah Gulen". CBS report said Gulen schools in the United States have 20,000 students enrolled with 30,000 more on waiting list. The growing popularity of Turkish charter schools has drawn suspicion and criticism of various groups in the United States.
Erdoğan has also spoken to US President Barack Obama about his concerns over the activities of Fethullah Gulen. “I told Obama [during a recent phone conversation] that the person who is responsible for the unrest in Turkey lives in your country, in Pennsylvania. I told him this clearly. I said, ‘I expect what’s necessary [to be done].’ You have to take the necessary stance if someone threatens my country’s security,” Erdoğan said during an interview on private broadcaster ATV late March 6. “[Obama] looked at it positively. ‘We got the message,’ he said,” he added.
Gulen schools have a good reputation. They are serving a large student population all over the world. My hope is that they will continue to get the education they need and deserve. One way to resolve it might be to transfer management of such schools and still keep them operating to deliver quality education.
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