The highest court in Turkey has overturned a law that would have closed a network of thousands of college preparatory schools tied to Muslim cleric Fetullah Gulen, the New York Times reports. The charter network also includes several schools in the US, most of them in Ohio, Illinois, and other Midwestern states.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had hoped the Constitutional Court would find the new law, which would force the closing of several preparatory schools attended mainly by wealthy students, constitutional. Instead, the court said the law violated a clause allowing freedom in education in the Turkish Constitution.
The decision was a blow to Mr Erdogan, who did not comment on the news for the Times. He and Mr Gulen were once allies, having ended the Turkish military together, but since that time, they have parted ways. Mr Gulen is said to be building forces to overturn Mr Erdogan’s government, but the Gulen movement is opaque, too hidden from public view with Mr Gulen’s self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania, to be sure. Plus, he has established friends in high places, particularly in the US, including Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
Last year, the New York Times Magazine did a piece entitled “Whose Turkey Is It?”:
Erdogan has declared that the Gulenists’ corruption charges constitute a conspiracy against him by a “parallel state.” To obstruct the investigation, he has purged thousands of supposed Gulenists from the police forces and reassigned the prosecutors on the corruption cases. Last month, the Gulenist Journalists and Writers Foundation held a news conference in Taksim Square and denied that Gulen sympathizers made up a parallel state with intelligence capabilities. One speaker there nevertheless made it clear that the movement wanted Erdogan to go …
So, given the opacity of the Gulen movement and their strong political connections, it can be expected that Turkey’s highest court wouldn’t cut off their funding by closing the equivalent of for-profit charter schools in the Middle Eastern nation. In Ohio earlier this year, the same thing happened, a harbinger of things to come in Turkey: Several mostly liberal state organizations called for the closure of Horizon Science Academy charter schools, which are part of the Gulen movement, following employee complaints and state and FBI investigations.
The nonprofit organization that runs the Ohio schools refused to close them, according to a report in the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Yes, the schools are in many ways the epitome of bad behavior, with academic issues, allegations from former teachers of racism and cheating on standardized tests, and raids by the FBI. But the nonprofit that runs the schools found the evidence unconvincing—not a big surprise given Mr Gulen’s political connections in the US—and decided to keep the charter schools open.