Turkey managed to take back some 250 schools that were linked to the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO) in 40 countries and saved 30,000 students from falling into the trap of the terror group, said Hasan Yavuz, vice president of the Maarif Foundation.
Turkey established the Maarif Foundation in 2016 to take over the administration of overseas schools linked to FETO. The foundation has assumed control of numerous schools previously run by FETO around the world, including at least 32 in Africa, according to Turkey's National Education Ministry.
In a phone interview with Anadolu Agency, Yavuz emphasized Turkey's determination to eradicate FETO network overseas and explained the "diabolical" tactics exercised by FETO members.
"We got the strong message of virtuous Turkish people who stopped FETO's coup attempt on July 15, 2016 by flooding to the streets in millions and sacrificing their lives. They demanded an absolute end to all FETO terrorism," said Yavuz, who is also an ambassador.
"Putting an end to terrorist activities of FETO is our utmost duty within the framework of law," he added.
According to Yavuz, FETO uses four strategies in the war against Turkey:
Using officials and bureaucrats who were brainwashed and recruited during their student years in FETO schools.
Providing free education to the children and relatives of high-ranking officials and bureaucrats who in return turn a blind eye to FETO activities in those countries, especially in Africa.
Using deception tactics such as disguising FETO institutions as foreign corporations that have multi-national shareholders.
Leaving behind unpaid debts, unpaid insurance premiums to workers and administrative staff, broken computers and damaged schools. Once FETO is certain that a specific school will be taken from them, they transfer all the money in the local bank accounts to Pennsylvania, the terror group's operational base in the U.S.
Yavuz stated that Turkey stipulated certain conditions in the protocol agreements with countries that decided to transfer FETO schools to Maarif.
"We will not pay the debts of this terror group, we said, we are only taking back what is already ours. You gave these schools to them assuming that they represent Turkey," Yavuz said.
Yavuz gave details of the legal battles against the terror group over the years and thanked top officials and lawmakers in Senegal, Chad, Mali, Niger, Guinea and several other countries for their "invaluable" cooperation in foiling FETO plans to use those countries as bases to wage a war against Turkey.
'Thankful to Pakistan and Afghanistan'
Commenting on the significant progress made in Pakistan and Afghanistan in eliminating the FETO threat, Yavuz said: "We had a tough legal process ahead of us but we patiently fought in the past two years and won in the end."
"Six schools in major cities of Afghanistan such as Herat, Mazar-i Sharif and Kabul were transferred to Maarif. Thirty-five FETO members were arrested. Pakistan has set a good example for Afghanistan as well. This positive trend will continue," he concluded.
Turkey has asked several countries worldwide to shut schools, colleges and businesses linked to the terror group in the wake of the July 15, 2016 defeated coup attempt which left 251 people martyred and nearly 2,200 injured.
Last year, Pakistan, another close ally of Turkey, ordered the shutdown of schools run by FETO and deported dozens of FETO-linked staff to Turkey.
The 2016 deadly coup bid was orchestrated by FETO and its U.S.-based leader Fetullah Gulen.
Ankara also accuses FETO of being behind a long-running campaign to overthrow the state through the infiltration of Turkish institutions, particularly the military, police, and judiciary.
FETO has a considerable presence outside Turkey, including private schools that serve as a revenue stream for the terrorist group.