by Nevval Sevindi
The Power of Love Overcame Terror
Bahattin Karatas, who laid the foundation of the Private Serhat High School, ran around like crazy for 8 years leaving no place unvisited. When he became the general director of Serhat's complex of schools, he turned over the school principalship. However, when the children see him, they still applaud him wildly and fall over with love.
Bahattin speaks Kurdish, Arabic, and Farsi in addition to Turkish. He knows the region very well, and is very experienced and tried. Saying that "the greatest enemy of humanity and the East is ignorance, poverty, and schism," he explains his interesting experience with two PKK students who came to school. Speaking Kurdish, he established a close relationship with them and listened to their problems. He gave them something to eat and drink and a place to sleep. However, for 15 days these two boys became very unruly. They broke windows and destroyed furniture. Later on, it came out that their purpose was to make the principal angry and, after being beaten or thrown out, they would say: "Turks treat us like this." However, being treated in such a loving way finally caused them to admit: "They told us so many negative things that we hated you. We came to burn the school, but we couldn't do it. Now we're going to go back and spit in their faces. You'll hear the noise all the way from Van!"
For the first time in Van's history, a female student earned enough points to be admitted to the Hacettepe Faculty of Medicine. The problem of not allowing girls to continue their education was entrenched. To convince their parents, the girls held discussions. As a result, girls' high schools were opened. They all came to our discussions held in the cultural center. Their excitement warmed our insides a little as we sat in the ice-cold cultural center.
The Letter That Made Us Cry
Kamil Satir, the regional coordinator, explains: "We don't see the East as second-class. We print every document on first-quality paper. In the history of Van, no one had qualified for the second level of the university exam. When the first student from the caglayan Preparatory Course won entrance to Bilkent University, everyone went crazy. Last year we were unable to accept 200 students because of insufficient accommodation. Our consciences are still suffering from this.
"I have never seen such intelligent children as those from Van. We even prepared a world champion. Our teachers cover the students in the dormitories at night. There are desks in the students rooms, and they can study as late as they want. We put students who get along well with each other in the same room, and let them study and participate in recreational activities together. Here it's necessary to provide dormitory facilities, because some students come from Hakkari Yuksekova.
"We saw many who wanted to go to the mountains (as terrorists). In Mus, one parent fell down at the door and cried: 'If you don't take my child, he is going to go to the mountains. Two of my sons died; let me give this one to you so he can be saved. I have two oxen. I'll sell one of them and be your slave.'
"One student from Cizre wrote in a letter: 'I always saw Turks as our enemy until the Preparatory Course opened. I liked all of you a lot. If you had come here before, maybe there wouldn't have been any terror. My uncle went to the mountains; maybe he wouldn't have gone.'"
When I read the letter, I felt weak inside and my tears fell like snowflakes, as did Kemal's words. "Who is going to give account for those who previously joined the terrorist organization and became lost? sIrnak and Silopi need these preparatory courses. Please open them immediately." [Yeni Yuzyil]
What Is the Purpose of Schools?
by Sahin Alpay
I knew that Fethullah Gülen is opposed to political Islam. I had some information about the schools opened upon his recommendation in Turkey. But I had no knowledge of the schools opened abroad.
In the interview he gave to Eyup Can in the daily Zaman, Gülen said that the schools opened in Central Asia blocked fundamentalist trends in those countries.
On my visit to Uzbekistan I saw that a secular, democratic education is given in the schools run by Turkish companies. Mahmut Bal, the general coordinator, says that the curriculum used is the same as that used in Turkey's Anadolu high schools. The teachers working in these schools are young and graduates of the best universities in Turkey. [Milliyet, 10/31/96]
I Am Writing What I Saw
by Ali Bayramoglu
The Central Asian schools are not run by a central financial institution. Entrepreneurs came from various Turkish cities and opened schools in different cities. The teachers, whose teaching is top quality, graduated from the best universities in Turkey.
None of these schools give religious education. Religion is taught, but none of the teachers have been educated in theology. With their well-equipped labs and curriculum, the schools follow the pattern of the Turkish Anadolu high schools. Girls do not cover their heads. The purpose is not to introduce religion as a set of norms, but to bring up students according to universal moral standards. [Yeni Yuzyil daily, 10/31/96]
Two Hundred Schools from Albania to Mongolia
by Atilgan Bayar
Although I know the liberal structure of Fethullah Gülen's community, I thought that in Central Asia I would see religious education and organized efforts to expand the community. My visit changed this prejudice.
I now know that the schools are not financed and run by a single company. Many entrepreneurs from various cities have opened different schools. For example, schools in Tashkent are opened and run by businessmen from Bursa, while some businessmen from Erzurum opened schools in Semerkant.
I visited the Turkish Embassy in Tashkent and asked Ahmet Sevgi, our education advisor there, about the schools. He said that the Turkish schools in Uzbekistan give secular education according to the principles of the Turkish Republic
When I visited the schools, I was amazed at what I saw. Most of the young teachers were graduates of the best Turkish universities such as Bogazici, Marmara and ODTU (Middle East Technical University). The show prepared by girl students in Tashkent Private Girls' School affected me very much. They were speaking English, Uzbek, and Turkish very well.
Turgut Ozal was loved very much in Turkmenistan. Whoever we encountered and talked to, told us how much he or she loved him.
The best Turkish school in Asghabat is the Private Turgut ozal Turkish-Turkmen High School. It has modern language and computer labs. Students learn mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, computer, history, art history, geography, history of religions, philosophy, logic, sociology and psychology, the history of Turkmenistan, gym, music, and painting. Scientific subjects are taught in English, while the others are taught in Turkmen. [Hurriyet daily, 11/1/96]
Fethullah Gülen and the Schools
by Hulusi Turgut
What Does Fethullah Gülen Say?
Fethullah Gülen, the originator of the idea to open elite educational institutions, made the following comments:
"The human factor lies at the base of all our problems, for all problems begin and end with people. Education is the best vehicle for a defect-free (or almost free) well-functioning social system or for a good life beyond the grave. In this respect, just as teaching is the most sacred profession, the best service to one's country or nation is education.
"When I was studying at Kursunlu/Erzurum around the age of 12 or 13, I would have an Arabic book in one hand and a map in the other. I would ask: 'God, how can we save young generations from being wasted? How can we be a country without any problems unsolved' As a child I would make plans for this. I grew up with these dreams. I never had any other goal in life, or thought of having a nice house, children, and a car.
"You can't oppose natural law. Water will flow, boil at 100 degrees, and evaporate; it will freeze at 0 degrees and become ice. If my nature contains a special characteristic that doesn't harm others, what is more natural than for it to flourish? As a person who grew up with the feelings and goal of serving my country and nation, and if this service passes initially through education, my interest in education is as natural as water flowing or the sun rising and setting.
"I have no power, capital, or army. I only have an unobstructable love and enthusiasm for serving others. I can explain this only to those who will heed my advice and make recommendations. At any rate, this kind of service is like a 'bazaar for God's approval.'
"Turkey can't be cut off from the world. When it is cut off, it is like a branch broken off from a tree—it can't live, and so will dry up. Turkey must be integrated with the world. In such an integration, the foremost countries with which we can establish sincere bonds and closeness are those of Central Asia. In one way we are a branch from the same shoot. This is why I directed my friends toward that region. Maybe this is just daydreaming.
"Loyal Turkish people supported this idea, and schools were opened in Central Asia. Some of them are now self-supporting. If we hadn't supported them until now, it wouldn't have been possible to take this operation there. We had an opportunity and tried to take advantage of it by believing in it and being conscious of our responsibility.
"Turkey needs enlightenment. We need to give direction to our friends. Those who built mosques wanted to open Qur'an courses beside them. I said: 'Mosques are wonderful; we have the greatest respect for them. However, it would be better if you open a school.' Our country needs distinguished and well-trained technicians and social scientists. From the outset I have tried to make suggestions to my friends. I was never actively involved in these efforts. I never asked for a house and home in this world. I used my friends' trust in me like a credit card for educational services. I did all this with the good will of my friends."
Fethullah Gülen used the collapse of the Berlin Wall (November 1989] and the Soviet Union (1991) to good advantage. He wanted to direct his audience to the former Iron Curtain countries. There were Turks in Central Asia, related nations in Caucasia, and former Ottomans in the Balkans.
Fethullah Gülen advised his audience to go to Central Asian countries in a sermon he gave in the Suleyman mosque in Istanbul in November 1989.
A new group of businessmen set out on May 28, 1990.
Three New Countries
The 37-member Turkish caravan passed from Azerbaijan to Uzbekistan, and from there to Kazhakstan and Tajikistan. Contacts and impressions gave much better results here. This second journey was a great success.
Turkish entrepreneurs already had decided to open up to the outside at the recommendation of Fethullah Gülen. Many people formed companies in different cities. They set out to search for new possibilities in Central Asian countries.
Ozal set out on his last visit for the schools
The late Turgut Ozal traveled to the Balkans and then to the Central Asian Turkish republics in the spring of 1993. He returned exhausted from the Balkans. In fact, he had difficulty walking on the street and praying in the mosques during his trip of the newly independent Muslim countries. State Minister Serif Ercan tried to help him by supporting his arm when he got up from the prayer rug and when he climbed stairs.
Ozal was going to begin his trip to Central Asia on April 5, 1993. He wanted to set out with a large delegation, intending to take some people with private invitations. This was to be his last trip, for on April 17, 1993, 24 hours after he returned, Ozal passed away.
Ozal displayed the same attitude in other countries.
Owners of the schools
Companies were established in Turkey to open schools, which now have spread over five continents. These companies applied to the Turkish National Education Ministry and received permission to open these schools. After that, the army of teachers that would serve was selected. Totaling over 4,000 today, teachers were chosen from Turkey's most distinguished universities. All of them were between 22 and 35 years old, had received a high quality of scientific training, and had learned perfect English.
Some of these companies are: Cag Ogretim Isletmeleri A.S., Selale A.S., Eflak A.S., Kazak Turk Liseleri Genel Mudurlugu, Sebat A.S., Silm A.S., Taskent Egitim Sirketi, Serhat Egitim Ogretim ve Saglik Hizmetleri A.S., Tolerans Vakfi, Ufuk Egitim Vakfi, Toros Egitim Hizmetleri Turizm ve Ticaret A.S., Karacay cerkes Toros Egitim Hiz. Tur. Ve Tic. A.S., Palandoken Egitim Ogretim Hiz. A.S., Dunae 94 Sti., Ozel Burg A.S., Dostluk Yurdu Dernegi, International Hope Ltd. Company, Balkanlar Egitim ve Kultur Vakfi, S.C. Lumina SA Sirketi, Gulistan Egitim Yayin ve Ticaret Ltd. Sti., Sema Egitim Ogretim Isletmeleri A.S., Turkiye Saglik ve Tedavi Vakfi, Yayasan Yenbu Indonesia Vakfi.
Turan oztoprak, a graduate of the Istanbul Technical University, manages the General Directorship of Azerbaijan's Turkish high schools. Explaining the work, he states: "We are educating close to 2,000 students in our schools. Even though our schools are still very young, they have very high standards. In the 1994 World Biology Olympiad held in Varna, Bulgaria, our students won two gold, one silver, and one bronze medal. Another group won the world championship in the Biology Olympiads. Again, in the 1994 World Environment Project Competition, our students earned high marks.
"Azerbaijan, bothered by radical movements, is in a critical position. Its officials investigated us and had their doubts dispelled. The system became stable, and people began to trust each other. Our students' success on a world scale crowned this work." Turkish tradition brought peace to families in Kyrgyzstan
If we begin by saying that: "Turkish schools in Kyrgyzstan united broken families," you would of course ask how they did so. Kyrgyz families were not broken up because of duty in distant places, but by divorce and abandonment. It's a very difficult task, but the Turkish teachers succeeded.
Yucel Bozkurt, General Director of the Kyrgyz Turkish schools, begins by saying: "I'm from a family of social democrats. I'm also a social democrat and a follower of Ataturk." He gives some interesting information. Let's listen to him.
"In these regions, when children reach a certain age they leave the family and sever ties with their parents. As their children don't look after them, they spend their old age alone. I hope that from now on our students in Kyrgyzstan will show interest in their parents throughout their lives.
"People become addicted to alcohol and cigarettes at a very young age. We try to turn our students away from this road by holding conferences on the health hazards of such addictions. We make cooperative efforts with their parents, and have obtained very good results."
Turkish colleges in Afghanistan
During the Turkish War of Independence, two friendly peoples supported us—the Afghanis and the Muslims in Indian subcontinent.
Today, there are four Turkish colleges in Afghanistan. Mustafa yilmaz Aydin, a graduate of Erzurum's Ataturk University, is general director of these educational institutions. With 50 teachers like himself, Aydin performs his duty in Afghanistan. Let's listen to his words on the life and death work conditions there:
"In this unending war, most of us have remained prisoners of war. But this didn't last long. The conditions of war continue with all their horror. However, our education programs continue without faltering. Some time previously, our former ambassador Bilge Cankoray visited our schools. In spite of all the negative conditions, we are happy because of the service we are giving here.
Turkish entrepreneurs entered Turkmenistan in 1992. Within 5 years, the Baskent Egitim Company established twenty educational institutions in this brother country. The Turkish colleges passed a 2-year trial period. In 1992 Turgut Ozal, who opened the Turkmen-Turk High School that resembles the Anadolu high schools in Turkey, examined the curriculum's and system's quality for student placement. The results became a reference for future schools. Seyit Embel, coordinator of Turkmenistan's educational institutions, gives important information regarding the interest they have received.
According to him: "Today we have twenty educational institutions in Turkmenistan. The last five came about as a result of the desire of Turkmenistan's President Turkmenbashy. He liked our educational system and its successful students very much. When our schools reached 15, he asked President Demirel to open new ones. Our President relayed the matter to us, and we said: "At your command."
"In our schools there, we teach Russian and English, and Turkish in both the Turkmen and the Turkey dialects.
"Most of the schools in Turkmenistan are similar to the Anadolu high schools. One of these schools is the International Turkmen-Turkish University. A total of 3,757 students are being educated in these schools. Our student body contains young people from eight different countries. During a visit, President Turkmenbashy told us: 'You are bringing out Turkmenistan's real wealth. History will write about you.'
I sincerely congratulate you on the occasion of the Turkmen-Turkish Colleges' first graduation ceremonies. I wish the graduates a bright future and happiness. Don't ever forget that you are the offspring of Korkut Ata, Oguz Han, Koroglu, Sultan Sancar, Yunus Emre, Mahmutguli, and thousands of great men like them. Stand up for the spirits of these heroes who wrote ineffaceable pages in history.
From the first days of our independence and sovereignty, the Turkish Republic and its people have extended a brotherly hand to Turkmenistan. I proudly emphasize that the success attained in our country during the years of independence and neutrality was accomplished with the special support of our Turkish brothers, whose language, religion, and path is one with ours. This support can be seen more openly in the knowledge and good manners given to the rising generation. The successful activities of 15 Turkmen-Turkish educational institutions in our country and thousands of Turkmen youth being educated in the Turkish Republic are bright examples of this support.
Turkmen students, world champion
"In Turkmenistan, we have brought up champions. Two years ago in the World Biology Olympiad, held in Ukraine, Turkmenistan won two gold and two bronze medals. As a team we won first place.
"We give education on par with world standards. Our students have lessons in Turkmen, Turkish, English, and Russian. Actually the Turkmen government has created a high educational standard. They give great importance to science. This year in the World Mathematics Olympiad, Turkmenistan won one gold and three bronze medals.
At this time, more than 5,000 students are studying in the educational institutions established by Turkish entrepreneurs in Kazakhstan. Students learn perfect Turkish and English. Graduates from the best universities in Turkey are serving as teachers.
Two Hundred Turkish teachers in Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan gained its independence on September 1, 1991. One year later, businessmen from Bursa came to this country. Representatives of Bursa's Silm Corporation received positive results from their talks with Uzbekistan's national education authorities. Mutual agreements were made and signed. First, the Tashkent Boys' High School was opened.
After Ozal's visit to Uzbekistan, the sign to "continue service" was given to Silm. With a special ruling by the Uzbek Council of Ministers, the number of Turkish colleges was increased to 18 all at once.
Young Turkish teachers entered Mongolia on August 31, 1994, before the Turkish Government went in. Mongolia is actually our "motherland." The Orhun Kitabeleri, the first written work to use the name Turk, was found in this country.
Called "otuken" in Turkish history, Mongolia became an area of settlement during the Neolithic Age. This land later served as a homeland for the Hungarians, Turks, and Tartars. Around 1,300 years ago, migrating Turks established the first Turkish state: the Gokturk Empire. It was finally rediscovered by our fellow citizens.
Turkish entrepreneurs who wanted to open schools here set out with 27 young teachers. They took everything with them, from teaching materials to chalk, Turkish and English textbooks and medicine. Under Suat Toprak, who acted as coordinator, six Turkish schools were opened. Schools under the administration of General Director Huseyin Karakus gained a reputation in Mongolia. Through these schools, geographically distant Mongolia drew close to Turkey. Visiting these schools on September 13, 1995, Turkish President Demirel was met by Mongolian children singing the Turkish national anthem.
Huseyin Karakus gave this information regarding the schools: "Today in Mongolia around 50 Turkish teachers are educating approximately 500 students. There are 38 Mongolian teachers. Some Turkish businessmen took over the bread market there."
While the imperialists fixed their eyes on our land during the War of Independence, implemented the Sèvres plan, and tried to break us into pieces, some sincere friends in distant lands tried their best to send us financial aid even though they were having economic difficulties. These were the Indian Muslims who had not yet gained their own independence. Last year, the Pakistanis celebrated their 50th year of independence. We are enthusiastically preparing this year for the celebration of our Republic's 75th anniversary. Our public-spirited people went to this brother country and opened four schools at once.
Esref Demir, principal of the school opened in Bosnia, explains: "On one of our visits, President Aliya Izzetbegovich of Bosnia-Herzegovina told us: 'My paternal grandmother was an Istanbul lady from uskudar.' Yes, we have many people close to us in Bosnia. Many Bosnians speak Turkish. In our schools, we teach Turkish in the dialect of Turkey. Last year we brought 150 students to Turkey to study Turkish and English in Istanbul."
Our school in Bucharest united families
In 1994, some Turkish businessmen entered Rumania, home to many Turks. The doors of this friendly country were opened by Turkish President Suleyman Demirel's letter to Ion Iliescu, the Rumanian president at that time.
These schools are the property of S.C. Lumina SA. The name of the educational institutions is "Liceul International." The first college was opened in Constanza, where there are many Turks; the second was opened in the capital city of Bucharest. sahin Durmaz, a graduate of the Istanbul Technical University's Mechanical Engineering Department, is in charge of the general directorate of these educational institutions.
Durmaz says: "There are 362 students studying in our schools here. Administrative and assistant personnel, as well as 42 teachers, have come from Turkey. There are 150 Rumanian personnel. Our Constanza school has 84 Rumanian Christian students and 58 Turks. In the Bucharest High School, there are 100 are Rumanian and 6 Turkish students, and 2 children of an Indonesian diplomat.
"Children of members of the Turkish Embassy attend the Suleyman Demirel Primary School, which was opened in 1996. In addition to a kindergarten class, there is an 8-year program. Of 112 students, 59 are Turkish. Our businessmen in Rumania have entrusted their children to us.
"Our students come from many different nations. For example, the children of diplomats and businessmen from Czechoslovakia, Indonesia, the Congo, South Africa, India, and Iran are studying under our roof. In addition to Rumanian, we teach Turkish and English."
If we say that the most unusual of our schools are the Turkish schools in Albania, I guess we would not be too far from the truth. Why? Because one of these schools is located in Tirane's War Academy Headquarters. There's more. Physics professor Recep Meidani, who was teaching at this school until very recently, is now Albania's president.
Ibrahim Aydogan, a graduate of the Ankara Technical Education Faculty, is general director of the educational institutions in Albania. Aydogan gives a lot of interesting information.
"Perhaps for the first time in the world, we opened a civil school in military facilities. We settled into the building. The children began training at the same time as the soldiers. While the students studied inside, the soldiers were receiving armed training outside.
"Our diplomats in Tirane heard about this. In fact, Chief Consul Metin Bey was amazed. He asked: 'How did you manage this?'
"In the Mehmet Akif Boys' High School, there are 230 boarding students; the Girls' High School has 250 boarding students. Also, the Turgut Ozal Primary School has an enrollment of 450 students."
Universities are increasing
The number of universities and colleges opened by Turkish entrepreneurs in various countries increases every day.
Beginning educational activities in 1993, this university now has 750 students. There is a preparatory class there, and subjects are taught in Turkish and English.
Students are given an entrance exam. Every year approximately 7,000 students apply, but only 10 percent are accepted. Some are given scholarships. Caucasia University offers engineering, economics, administrative science, open education, and theological faculties.
There are 157 students this year at the Black Sea University. Classes are taught in English. Students coming from the Russian Federation, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, and Turkey are taught by Georgian academicians.
Opening for the 1994-1995 school year, this university gives education in English, Turkish, Turkmen, and Russian. It has 420 students, and features active faculties of economics, administrative science, education, and engineering. Education is given in four languages in the preparatory class. There are modern girls' and boys' dormitories for the university's students. Currently, there are 123 Turkish students studying at this university.
Opened in 1996 by Turkish President Suleyman Demirel and Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev in a magnificent ceremony, this university has English and economics departments. A broader structure is planned for the coming years. Also, 53 students are studying in the Turkish Language and Literature Department opened in the Al-Farabi State University.
Chain of higher education institutions
The following schools are being added to universities and higher education institutions opened in various countries: Alada University (Kyrgyzstan), the Mogul-Turk Construction Technical School of Higher Learning (Ulan Bator, Mongolia), Pak-Turk International School and College (Pakistan; institution of higher learning in Islamabad), the Yari Islamic Institute of Higher Learning (Bulgaria), the Derbent Humanitarian Institute (Daghestan; 5 years, including preparatory class), Economics-Administrative Sciences Faculty and Orientalism Faculty (preparatory and 5 years), the London Meridian College (United Kingdom; a 2-year program after high school). [Yeni Yuzyil daily, 1/15–2/4/98]