Turkey’s Ambassador Wants School Closed

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Ilhan Tug, the Turkish ambassador to Cambodia, wants the Zaman International School closed due to its alleged links to the suspected plotters of a failed coup against the Turkish government. (KT/Mai Vireak)

In a press conference at the Turkish embassy in the capital yesterday, Ilhan Tug, the Turkish ambassador to Cambodia, claimed that Zaman International School (ZIS) in Phnom Penh was related to the group that recently led the failed coup to overthrow the democratically elected government in Turkey. 
 
For this reason, he asked the Cambodian government to close the school as soon as possible.
 
“We have been in close contact with the Cambodian government and also the members of the parliament regarding the Zaman school in Cambodia. And we have requested all kinds of support to be halted,” said the ambassador. “We would also like to see this Zaman group in Cambodia end all its activities in the near future.”
 
Mr. Tug also said that the Zaman group had been active in Cambodia since 1993, running schools ranging from kindergarten to university. 
 
According to Mr. Tug, the coup attempting to overthrow the elected Turkish government was organized by an Islamic religious group the Turkish government labeled the Fethullah Gulen Terrorist Organization (FETO).
 
“This coup attempt was staged in no uncertain terms by the Fethullah Gulen Terrorist Organization that we call FETO. Our government has been constantly exposing the real motives of this terrorist group and its leader, Fethullah Gulen, to all allies and friends including Cambodia. 
 
“The foiled coup is the latest criminal act revealing the danger posed by FETO,” added the ambassador.
 
From this failed coup, the ambassador said he hoped everyone, including the Cambodian government, could understand the true nature of this terrorist organization and its network.
 
According to an Internet source, ZIS is a private multilingual international school in Cambodia’s capital. It was founded in 1997 by Atilla Yusuf Guleker, a former journalist of the Turkish daily Zaman that was the largest opposition newspaper in Turkey. The school is certified by the Cambodian Ministry of Education.
 
Zaman High School is located in a building next to the Russian embassy in Tonle Bassac commune. The kindergarten, primary school and university are in Toul Kork district.
 
According to Reuters, Turkish authorities took control of the Zaman newspaper, the country’s largest, on March 4 in a crackdown against supporters of Mr. Gulen, a US-based Muslim cleric and influential foe of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
 
Zaman means “time” or “era” in Turkish. The daily newspaper was created in 1986. It originally supported the Justice and Development Party (AKP). 
 
But later, Zaman became increasingly critical of the AKP and its leader, Mr. Erdogan, who in turn, accused Zaman of supporting the Hizmet movement of Mr. Gulen. It is a movement the Turkish government accuses of attempting to establish a parallel state in the country.
 
According to an online source, the Hizmet movement is a liberal Islamic transnational religious and social movement led by Mr. Gulen, an Islamic theologian and preacher. The movement is labeled by the ruling AKP as a terrorist organization.
 
The movement has attracted supporters in Turkey as well as in Central Asia and other parts of the world. It is active in the field of education with private schools and universities in more than 180 countries, in the fields of media, finance and health.
 
According to Ambassador Tug, the Turkish government is now requesting Mr. Gulen’s extradition from the US, and Reuters reported that the US government said “it would consider any formal request.”
 
Reuters added that on Sunday, Mr. Gulen responded and said he would obey any extradition ordered by the US, but added it was Mr. Erdogan who had organized the coup.
 
However, in a note released yesterday, the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that the coup attempt on Friday evening was a terrorist campaign in which the perpetrators killed their own people.
 
“It was understood in a short time that this was more than a treacherous plot: It was a terrorist campaign. The perpetrators fired at their own people, stabbed their commanders in the back and bombed the National Parliament and the Office of the Presidency,” read the letter.
 

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