Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has a very interesting story about the increasing pressure being put on schools opened up by the Turkish Gulen movement in Central Asia. Named after scholar Fethullah Gulen, the highly successful movement has been active in opening Turkish schools in Central Asia since the mid-1990's and has also been opening up schools in other parts of the world, including the United States. In Turkey, the movement is a powerful - and controversial - force in politics and media (Zaman, Today's Zaman and several other print and tv outlets are affiliated with it).
From the RFE/RL article:
Throughout Central Asia, Turkish schools are known for their strict educational methods and discipline and are highly regarded by students and parents.
The majority of national and regional education contests are won by Turkish lyceum students. Easily passing English-language tests, many graduates win scholarships to Western universities.
Parents go to great lengths to enroll their children in Turkish schools, hoping such education will guarantee bright futures for them.
Yet, Turkish educational institutions have come under increasing scrutiny in Central Asia. Governments as well as many scholars and journalists suspect that the schools have more than just education on their agendas.
In Turkmenistan, education authorities have ordered Turkish lyceums to scrap the history of religion from curriculums.
In the only Persian-speaking country in the region, Tajikstan, the government, as well as academics, are wary of the possible spread of pan-Turkic ideas. They fear that these schools promote Turkish influence and the Turkish language in their country.
However, it is Uzbekistan that has taken the toughest stance toward Turkish schools. In 1999, Tashkent closed all Turkish lyceums after its relationship with Ankara turned sour.
This year, the authoritarian Uzbek government headed by President Islam Karimov took things a step further by arresting at least eight journalists who were graduates of Turkish schools. The journalists were found guilty of setting up an illegal religious group and of involvement in an extremist organization….
….Uzbek officials have expressed suspicions that Turkish-school graduates in government offices and other key institutions use their positions to weaken the secular government. They charge that graduates of Turkish schools promote an aggressive form of Islam and even a role for Islam in political life.
You can read the rest of the article here. For more on the Gulen movement, take a look at this analysis piece (pdf) from Jane's Islamic Affairs Analyst.
(Photo: A sign at Dushanbe's Haji Kemal Joint Tajik-Turkish Boarding School. By RFE/RL)