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The Education Quality Development Centre of Georgia, an agency of the Ministry of Education, revoked on 3 February the authority to teach of the Şahin Friendship School, a school linked to Turkish political figure Fethullah Gülen.
The school has continued to operate without official authority, however as soon as notice of the decision is officially sent to them, 340 pupils will be left without a school.
The Şahin Friendship School opened in Batumi, a city on Black Sea coast in western Georgia, in 1994. The Education Quality Development Centre has proposed that pupils continue their studies in other schools in Batumi.
The official reason given for the decision to suspend the authority of school was that six non-Georgian pupils were transferred from Turkish medium classes to Georgian medium ones.
Batumelebi quoted one employee of the school as saying that last year, the Education Ministry demanded that the school abolish it’s Turkish medium education programme entirely, which they did.
‘85 pupils left the school, while several others were transferred to Georgian medium classes, and they claim that these few pupils created problems for the other 350.’ The employee said, adding that the school doesn’t have any financial problems.
According to a statement published on the Education Ministry’s website, Deputy Education Minister Lia Gigauri met with the Ambassador of Turkey in Georgia, Zeki Levent Gümrükçü a few days before the decision was announced.
‘Parties expressed satisfaction about the cooperation between Turkey and Georgia in education and underlined the necessity to deepen this cooperation’, the statement reads.
The press-office of the Turkish Embassy told OC Media that the ambassador will not comment on the issue of the Şahin school.
‘This issue is a domestic issue for Georgia, and so appropriate bodies in Georgia make decisions. Accordingly, since it is a domestic issue, the ambassador doesn’t consider it necessary to comment’, the spokesperson said.
The school’s principal, Elguja Davitadze, issued a statement claiming that the pupils were transferred to Georgian medium education at the request of the Education Ministry.
He wrote that Georgian legislation does not regulate the medium of education in the country, and therefore the decision to suspend the authority of the school was illegal.
‘We suspect that this decision was part of a deliberate policy to restrict and prohibit the Şahin School in Georgia’, the statement reads.
After the failed coup attempt in Turkey in 2016, Yasin Temizkan, the Turkish Consul in Batumi, told TV 25 that the Şahin School ‘raises terrorists’.
He later denied saying this, claiming that the interpreter had made a mistake while interpreting into Georgian, and that he did not say anything like this.
Şahin School is on of a chain of Çağlar educational institutions in Georgia linked to Gülen, including one university, one college, and six schools.
The government of Turkey considers Gülen, who lives in exile in the US, a terrorist. They accuse him of being behind the attempted coup in Turkey in July 2016. Gülen denies the accusations and blames Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for staging the failed coup himself.
Now that the authority of the Şahin School has been revoked, the fate of other Gülen owned educational facilities in Georgia have been brought into question.
Given that the rector of the International Black Sea University, Dr. İlyas Çiloğlu, as well as Adem Olan, a member of the board of Çağlar Educational Institutions, both appear on a Turkish wanted list, the university’s future is in doubt.
According to Voice of America (VoA), the directors of all Çağlar education institution schools have been replaced by Georgians as result of a pressure from the Turkish government.
A number of Gülen run schools worldwide, including in Pakistan, Somali, Sudan, Guinea and Gabon, have been sized and handed over to the Turkish State Fund, VoA writes.