GeriGündem Turkish gov't's gravity to Gulen schools heightened during FM's visit
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Turkish gov't's gravity to Gulen schools heightened during FM's visit

Turkish gov't's gravity to Gulen schools heightened during FM's visit
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SARAJEVO - One of the most important notes from Turkey’s foreign minister's Balkan trip is the visit he paid to the schools of the controversial Islamic sect leader Fethullah Gulen.


Zeynep Gurcanli, the Ankara bureau chief of Hurriyet Internet, accompanied Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan on his visit to Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina last week.

The visit came amid ongoing clashes in the Middle East and increased tension in the region, a sign of the importance Turkey attributes to the Balkans.

Hurriyet Daily News Online Edition and will publish a serial of Gurcanli's features and analysis.

Today is the second installment in the series.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan had paid a visit to Bosnia Herzegovina and Kosovo last week at a time while all eyes were turned to the Middle East.    

Babacan, accompanied by his wife Zeynep Babacan, was expected to visit a Gulen school in Sarajevo. The foreign minister however was unable to attend at a Gulen school due to his busy schedule, and instead his wife paid a visit on his behalf.

The visit signaled the continuation of the similar policy started during President Abdullah Gul's foreign ministry term. Gul had issued a decree to foreign representatives, saying that such schools should be deemed "Turkish schools" and diplomats should therefore behave accordingly. 

Gulen, Turkey's most controversial religious leader has close relations with the ruling Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) government and has a broad following; however, was trialed on charges of plotting to dismantle the secular state.

The controversial sect leader, the author of dozens of books on religion, science and philosophy, has a strong presence in education not only in Turkey but also in the Balkans, Central Asia and Africa. His network also includes a university, a newspaper and a number of businesses.

Gulen owns education institutions in Bosnia and Herzegovina, including seven primary and middle schools, as well as two universities. The organization also has a strong presence in education in Kosovo.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry also gave a code name to Gulen institutions, which diplomats refer to as "non-governmental schools".

Babacan, since taking over the helm of the foreign ministry from his predecessor, Gul, who was elected president, has scheduled visits to these schools located in countries included in his foreign tours.

He visited the "International University of Sarajevo", owned by Gulen, in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The majority of the students attending this university are Turkish citizens.

Almost all the female Turkish students at the university wear headscarves. The males have Islamic-style beards.

The female students told reporters they preferred to study in Bosnia and Herzegovina because of the headscarf ban at Turkish universities.

From the beginning of Babacan's term as top diplomat, an "informal item" was added to the formal agenda of foreign trips: Friday prayers.

Since Turkey is a secular state, Friday prayers cannot be added to the official tour schedule. However the timing of prayers is taken into consideration during the planning of details in the tour schedule.

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