Contributor: MELİH USLU
Our Distinguished Professor Dr. Cem Zorlu, first of all we wish you success with your new assignment as Turkey’s Maarif Foundation Chairman of Board of Directors. Could you tell us a bit about yourself?
Thank you so much. I was born in Konya-Ereğli on July 9th, 1963. I completed my undergraduate, graduate and doctoral studies at Selçuk University Faculty of Theology, and started to work as a research assistant at the same university. I completed my associate professorship in the field of Islamic history and became a professor in 2007. I taught in various countries as Germany, Egypt, Jordan and Azerbaijan. I was the dean of İnönü University Faculty of Theology for a while. I later served my country as a politician and parliament member taking a break from my academic studies. I was Konya AK Party Deputy in the 24th term and members of Turkey-EU Joint Parliamentary Commission and Islamic Conference Organization Parliamentary Union.
Could you tell us a little bit about the Foundation? When was the foundation established? What is its purposes, mission and vision?
Turkey’s Maarif Foundation established with the belief that education is the greatest investment in individuals with the law numbered 6721 adopted by Turkish Grand National Assembly in a session held on 17.06.2016 with the purpose of planning and managing the educational and training operations of Turkish Republic abroad and following the approval of Turkish President, it was published in the Official Gazette No. 29756 on 28.06.2016 and came into effect. Our foundation launched its operations as of 09.09.2016, completing foundation statute and working bodies.
Centre of the foundation is Istanbul, the cradle of civilization. Based on the common knowledge and values of humanity all over the world, Turkey’s Maarif Foundation will offer formal and non-formal education services at every stage from preschool to college. Turkey’s Maarif Foundation does not consider these services and education it offers as mechanical processes, and is aware that no actors involved in education are moulds to shape. We are also aware that diversity is not a weakness but an asset, and this wealth offers great opportunities. As a result, Turkey’s Maarif Foundation has undertaken a central role in preventing global destruction of values, thanks to an education approach deepened with wisdom. With the awareness that regions, countries, cultures and diversity are joy, beauty, possibility and power and as a representative of tradition of wisdom that supports living together in peace and by cooperation, Turkey’s Maarif Foundation will serve for the shared dreams of humanity to give strong shoots.
In summary, Turkey’s Maarif Foundation was established to achieve these goals, to provide scholarships, to establish facilities such as schools, educational institutions and dormitories, to train scholars / teachers to work in these institutions, to prepare RE-DO activities and publications based on scientific research, to develop relevant programs and methods at every stage of education and to carry out and manage other educational processes in line with legislations of countries it operates in.
Turkey’s external education policies are carried out in schools affiliated to Turkish Ministry of National Education and schools linked to various NGOs. FETÖ-affiliated schools have attained a widespread global education network using ‘Turkey’ brand. FETÖ cold-heartedly utilized schools operating in 116 countries, 800 education units, 100 student dorms, 1000 foundations, 200 media organizations and 500 companies for its shady purposes, and unfortunately they continue to operate at many points.
We have initiated efforts to stop this heinous organization that uses our people’s money and reputation of Turkish Republic in the eyes of other countries, and to make them ineffective using their weapons. Our aim is to offer to the service of Turkish nation all schools built with donations collected by exploiting our people’s faith, who are the rightful owners. This organization raises enemies of Turkish state, carries out lobbying activities, makes all kinds of black propaganda against Turkish Republic without supervision on a legitimate platform as education all around the world exploiting such a major notion, and works enthusiastically as a tool of other powers. It is our primary goal to dry its resources and to turn the course of the events to our favour, and we see it and should see it as our national mission.
We know that organizational infrastructure efforts of Turkey’s Maarif Foundation is ongoing. What stage are you in?
As you can see, our foundation has rapidly been organizing although it has a history of four months. During this period, we launched operations in numerous countries. Talks have been held on transfer of FETÖ schools in many countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, the Balkans, and Arab regions to Turkey’s Maarif Foundation.
We have significant gains with the support and contributions of Turkish President. Currently all the schools belonging to FETÖ / PDY organization in Guinea, Niger and Somalia have been taken over and operations are successfully carried out by Turkey’s Maarif Foundation. In addition, we have signed a Memorandum of Understanding on the transfer of schools in Chad, Sudan, Senegal, Gabon, Mauritania, Sao Tome and Burkina Faso. Besides Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, India, Albania, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, Iraq, Northern Iraq, Uganda, Australia, Mongolia, India and Indonesia… We currently conduct negotiations with more than 20 countries. I hope we will achieve positive outcomes. In the coming months, we will also travel to a number of countries as Angola, Benin, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Zambia, Cameroon, Mali, Rwanda, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Morocco, Tunisia, Germany, Belgium, France, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Macedonia, Kosovo, Hungary, Romania, Sierra Leone and the UK. We also plan to open schools for Turks living in Australia and Europe. Our main goal is to take over the schools owned by this terrorist group and manage them better, and we do not intend to close them down. I would like to emphasize once again that we consider these schools FETÖ built with donations, as stolen assets of the Turkish nation.
We also try to assist the people of a region cleared of terror by Euphrates Shield Operation without any discrimination, who have been deprived of education and training for six years. First of all, we carried out the required feasibility studies in Jarabulus and its vicinity. We have planned education with all aspects in central Jarabulus. We launched the necessary operations. In agreement with Jarabulus Local Council, and nearly 3000 primary school students started receiving education. Relief operations for six schools used for different purposes for six years and are in ruins were completed, and maintenance and repair of schools will be launched in first days of the new year. We will start education abiding by our plans in schools where repairs are complete. Field works on Çobanbey and Azez continue. We work here to meet the education and training needs of district centres.
We know that the Turkey’s Maarif Foundation will especially work on Turkish schools abroad. What kind of educational model do you envisage as a foundation, to attain a global quality?
First, we must stress that all terrorist organizations that are active in the international arena have either aimed to keep people ignorant by preventing them from getting education or utilised education to train robotic individuals for their own intents. Both methods should be approached as threats of top priority for the international community. And the bloody coup and occupation attempt in Turkey staged by FETÖ on July 15, 2016, clearly demonstrated what can be done with people turned into robots after receiving education in institutions. This clearly showed that these people who were raised as members in educational institutions run by this terrorist organization do not recognize any legal limitations and moral values, and that there are destructive and provocative consequences of educational activities of a terrorist organization targeting the peace and common acquisitions of humanity. Schools were opened in various world countries by organizations affiliated with FETÖ in guise of “Turkish Schools” by exploiting the accumulation and means of Turkish citizens, and these continue to pose a threat both to Turkey and to the country and their respective communities.
Turkey’s Maarif Foundation has taken over and rehabilitated these schools as we previously stated. The aim is to prevent destruction with an education approach deepened with wisdom that does not regard education a mechanical process, aware that none of the actors involved in this process are moulds to shape, that does not eliminate diversity but employ it for enrichment. Turkey’s Maarif Foundation, a representative of wisdom tradition that considers diversity of regions, countries, cultures, people a wealth and supports living together peacefully and cooperatively, will serve for shared dreams of the humanity to give strong shoots.
In terms of Turkey’s educational objectives in the international arena, you have a lot in common with Yunus Emre Enstitüsü. In this sense, will you carry out joint operations with the Enstitü?
Yunus Emre Enstitüsü carries out operations in numerous places around the world through Yunus Emre Turkish Cultural Centres to promote Turkey, Turkish language, history, culture and art. While introducing Turkish language, culture and art, it continues its activities with the aim of serving those who want to receive education in these fields, and improving the cultural exchange and friendship of Turkey with other countries. At this point, we have a lot in common with respect to vision. Of course we would like to take part in joint projects, moreover it is a responsibility, and we are sure that Yunus Emre Enstitüsü will provide support to our newly established foundation in many fields. Otherwise is unimaginable. In this context, I believe that it will be beneficial for the both institutions to carry out mutual projects and thus to develop our activities.
Yunus Emre Enstitüsü is our sister organization. We consider all their acquisitions and experience as our own. Their work will guide us at many instances. For example, we hold Turkish preparation classes in all our schools. Yunus Emre Enstitüsü also teaches Turkish to non-Turkish speakers abroad. And they launched this operation before us. For this reason, we utilize publications prepared by Yunus Emre Enstitüsü and benefit from their experience in this field in many of our schools. I would also like to express my gratitude to Enstitü administration on this occasion for their support.
We have institutions such as TIKA (Turkish Presidency for Cooperation and Coordination Agency) and YTB (Presidency for Turks Abroad and Related Communities) which successfully carry out their duties abroad. Do you aim to collaborate with them?
Like Yunus Emre Enstitüsü, these are also our sister organizations. In almost every country we cross paths with these institutions. Of course, we will mutually help each other in areas of interest. We expect for Turkish institutions such as TIKA and YTB, which have active positions in countries we serve and make us proud with operations they carry out, to especially support us in announcing our intention, goals and activities in education field correctly, effectively and widely. We are ready to establish collaborations to carry out our activities in the most efficient way, to reach wider masses, to establish links at local and international levels, to carry out joint operations and to promote these. In particular, we will carry out joint operations with TIKA in the regions where Euphrates Shield operation is underway. They made us happy by undertaking the restoration of a school we made efforts to prepare for education-training in Jarabulus. Soon they will launch the repairs.