A network of respected schools in Tajikistan could face closure in a convoluted case that could be linked to the government’s attempts to lay hands on a vocal critic abroad,EurasiaNet.org reports.
The schools at issue were founded in the 1990s by an “ally” of Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen, who is a supporter-turned-critic of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Gulen lives in the United States, and Turkey is seeking his extradition on charges of plotting to overthrow the government.
At the same time, the government of Tajikistan has asked Turkey to send back former oil trader Umarali Kuvvatov to face corruption charges, EurasiaNet.org writes. Kuvvatov was a business partner of Tajikistani President Imomali Rahmon’s son-in-law and has since become a critic of Rahmon’s rule, moving to Dubai then to Russia and finally to Turkey.
Some analysts say the government’s announcement that it could reject the Gulen-linked schools’ license renewal unless the network runs as a charity is a gesture to Erdogan in the hopes that he will hand over Kuvvatov.
The highly regarded Gulen schools are a bright spot in Tajikistan’s dim educational system. They teach about 2,500 students in English and Turkish and charge tuition of $1,330 per year, a considerable amount in Central Asia’s poorest country, according to EurasiaNet.org.
“If they close the Turkish schools in exchange for Kuvvatov, it would be very thoughtless,” economist Khojimuhamad Umarov of Tajikistan’s Academy of Sciences told EurasiaNet.org. “It would cost Tajikistan a lot. He is worth nothing to sacrifice schools of such quality.”
Erdogan is also pushing to have Gulen-linked schools closed in African countries on the grounds that they “tarnish Turkey’s image,” Reuters reports.
This article was originally published on Transitions Online.