On Jan. 9, Erdogan said Gulen’s organization previously had schools in 115 countries, and that Gambia was among six nations that had shut them. Schools in the African countries of Guinea, Somalia, Chad, Senegal, Mauritania, Niger and Gabon have been transferred to Turkish government control, he said.
The schools follow national curricula, serve children through high school and are popular with local elites because of good academic results. They deny any link to the botched military uprising in Turkey in July that led to a purge of alleged loyalists of Gulen, a U.S.-based critic of Erdogan who had expanded his international influence with a message of interfaith harmony.
The schools once had the approval of Erdogan’s government, whose former alliance with Gulen partly derived from joint opposition to the hard-line secular circles that had ruled Turkey. The partnership evolved into an increasingly acrimonious rivalry several years ago.
In Ethiopia, Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn said this month that schools linked to Gulen will be transferred to Turkish government control. He said he discussed the matter with Erdogan during a visit by the Turkish president.
“I told him that if there is something wrong with the establishment of the schools, then he should give us a way out how to keep the schools running,” the prime minister said. “They agreed on this and they have set up a foundation.”