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Turkey’s Erdogan And The Albania’s Snub

By Abdulkareem Ahmed
24 May 2015   |   1:30 am
EVENTS in the little but beautiful country of Albania caught my attention recently when President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey called on the authorities of the small Balkan country to close Turkish schools within its shores.


EVENTS in the little but beautiful country of Albania caught my attention recently when President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey called on the authorities of the small Balkan country to close Turkish schools within its shores.

Like many others, the rationale behind the campaign by Erdogan to shut down Turkish schools abroad was a major puzzle, not until recently, when it became crystal clear that the Turkish President’s growing hatred for the schools is centred on his quest to hit at any group (s) he perceived as responsible for exposing the corruption in his government in December 2013.

But the decision of the President to export his political crisis abroad is earning him more isolation, with many people describing his antics of negatively labelling Turkish schools and charity organisations in Africa and other parts of the world as dirty.

Erdogan believes that negatively tagging Turkish international organisations that do not enjoy his support will help shore up his  (President) fast declining popularity rating at home, while at the same time make the organisations look good for nothing.

But the President, as a result of his iron-hand rule and blatant crackdown on critics, seems to be failing woefully in his unjust war against the Turkish schools. His recent vituperation in Albania against Turkish schools is not the first to come from him. He badmouthed the schools during his visit to Africa last year despite the schools’ role to tackle the dual problem of high illiteracy rate and out-of-school children.

Having failed on his mission to have the hundreds of Turkish schools in Africa shut down and dazed by negative reactions that trailed the move in the region, Erdogan appears to be turning to Albania to get what he failed to achieve in our continent.

But like in Africa, where the various governments told Erdogan that he can ‘go to hell’ if he is bent on closing the Turkish schools that have already won their hearts, Albanian authorities are not also mincing words on why the Turkey’s President call to close the schools in the country on the bogus allegation of being owned by terrorist organisation should be treated with disdain. Several Albanian lawmakers have dismissed Erdoğan’s portrayal of the schools as being created by a terrorist organisation, and have said that the schools provide a high quality education that is essential for the development of the country.

Ben Blushi, a deputy from the ruling the Socialist Party of Albania (PS), which came to power in 2013, speaking in a parliamentary session recently, called on the government to reject Erdoğan’s request. “Albania is not a province of Turkey,” Blushi said, and stressed that internationally recognized terrorist organizations are only determined by UN Security Council (UNSC) resolutions; Blushi was quoted as saying by the Today’s Zaman newspaper.

To the lawmaker, Erdoğan asked for a gift from Albanian authorities in return for the construction of the Namazgah Mosque in Tirana. “I have never seen the Gülen [Hizmet] movement kill somebody. Those schools that Erdoğan seeks to close down have contributed to education as thousands of schools in Albania,” he added.

It is puzzling why Erdogan who had once championed the course of promoting more Turkish schools abroad now suddenly became an avowed enemy of these schools established by non-governmental organisations and volunteers from Turkey, to the extent that he can throw all sorts of allegations against the schools.  

Erdoğan inaugurated one of the Turkish schools in Albania, Turgut Özal College’s elementary school, on Feb. 17, 2005, during an official trip when he was prime minister of Turkey. Besides, not only did he endorse the opening of schools in Albania by Turkish civil society, other Turkish officials such as then-President Abdullah Gül and Parliament Speaker Cemil Çiçek also gave their full blessing to such efforts. Turkish officials saw these schools as bridges with Albania that could facilitate strong ties with the Balkan country.

Close watchers of Turkey’s politics are not too surprised by Erdogan’s recent decision to ‘throw heavy stones’ on a house (Turkish schools) that he once prided as Turkish un-official ambassadors to other countries. His labelling the schools as formed by a terrorist organization, a vague reference to the Hizmet movement, a faith-based movement inspired by Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, is deeply connected to the 2013 corruption scandal that the president has failed to explain to the Turkish people.

Senior members of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and some members of the president’s inner circle were fingered in the scandal, just as Erdogan accused members of Hizmet movement of blowing the corruption lid open, hence the need to adopt any method to cripple activities of any group or institution that is connected with the movement.