Turkey’s ambassador wants end to Cambodia Gulen schools

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Turkey’s ambassador to Cambodia has reiterated a request that the government shutter three schools alleged to maintain links to the Gulen movement, which has been accused of fomenting the July 15 failed coup across Turkey.

In an interview with Anadolu Agency on Tuesday, Ilhan Tug said that the “hizmet” arm of the movement — also known as the Fetullah Terrorist Group (FETO) — is responsible for the operation of schools, humanitarian projects and businesses, which include the Zaman schools in Cambodia.

He produced a list compiled by Citizens Against Special Interest Lobbying in Public Schools (CASILIPS), which names Cambodia’s Zaman University, Zaman Primary School and Zaman International School as Gulen schools.

All are located in capital Phnom Penh.

On its website, CASILIPS says it seeks to investigate “the use [and abuse] of the public school system to advance the agendas of business, political and religious special interest groups”, but does not cite the source of its findings.

“When there’s a terrorist attack, or ISIS [Daesh] bomb or causes chaos in Belgium or Paris, they have been known by these countries’ intelligence, but… they don’t have a membership card,” Tug said when asked what evidence he had linking the Zaman campuses to the movement.

The request follows a worldwide instruction to diplomats late July from Turkey’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs to clamp down on organizations within their borders linked to United States-based Fetullah Gulen.

Similar requests were made to Thailand and Japan after Ankara accused FETO of orchestrating the coup in which FETO-linked military personnel attempted — unsuccessfully — to overthrow Turkey’s elected government.

Asked July 19 if Cambodia planned to adhere to Turkey’s request to shutter the schools, Foreign Ministry spokesman Chum Sounry told Anadolu Agency that the ministry would only consider the request it if it was made formally.

Ambassador Tug is reported to have met with Foreign Minister Prak Sokhon on Monday — the first in-person request — with the Cambodia Daily quoting Chum Sounry as saying that the allegations were “an important problem” that would be considered.

“I made many demarches after the 15th of July, however this was the first face to face meeting with the foreign minister,” Tug underlined Tuesday.

“We both have the willingness to develop further our bilateral relations. We are quite satisfied where we are at the moment, we cooperate not only bilaterally and also internationally, so we are very satisfied.

“Within this spirit, I am sure that the Cambodian government will evaluate this request.”

Between the two requests, Cambodian Zaman school founder Ejder Kilic has admitted in a statement that the school was “started with the spiritual motivation and advice of Fethullah Gulen,” but claimed that Gulen has never had any official link, ownership or involvement in the school administration.

“He has never taken a part in any sort of decision-making process in forming or running the schools,” he claimed.

Asked Tuesday what he thought of attempts by the school to clear themselves of any affiliation, Tug was clear.

“Of course they’re not going to say they are affiliated with the Gulen movement,” Tug said.

“This is all the hizmet civil movement, it is all under the guise.”

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