In a post shared on its official Twitter account, Turkey’s Consulate General in Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan, announced that the Qur’an was being recited in 15 madrasas (religious schools) as part of events for Democracy and National Unity Day, which was established in Turkey after a controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016. The message, retweeted by other government institutions, does not specify which madrasas they are and by whom they are managed. Very young boys are seen reading the Qur’an in the attached photographs.
Young students from various schools in Kabul previously operated by the Gülen movement, a fierce critic of the government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, but later transferred to Turkey’s semi-official Maarif Foundation, also attended the ceremony held at the embassy in Kabul. The deputy minister of foreign affairs of the Taliban Provisional Government, Shir Mohammed Abbas Stanekzay, Deputy Minister of Economy Abdullatif Nazari, Rector of Kabul University Asama Aziz and various officials of the interim government were among the guests.
At another ceremony held at a boys high school in Mazar-i-Sharif, Consul General Semih Lütfü Turgut asked for support in the Erdoğan government’s witch hunt against the Gülen movement.
According to statistics on the Maarif website, the foundation runs 53 schools and 12 dormitories in Afghanistan, serving a total of 6,500 students.
In 2019 the Maarif Foundation, one of the organizations that act as the long arm of President Erdoğan abroad made, an agreement with the then-Afghan government and took over the Gülen schools in the country. Maarif, which left Afghanistan after the Taliban took control in 2021, later returned to the country. Employing almost all of its staff from among local teachers, Maarif has one representative in Afghanistan. In addition, Turkey’s education attaché also works as a Maarif employee in Kabul.
When the Gülen movement was running the schools, 40 percent of the students were female. It is not known how many female students remained after the Gülen movement, which opened girls high schools in Afghanistan, was forced to relinquish the schools. While the Taliban currently allows girls to attend kindergarten and primary school, they are not yet able to go to middle and high school.
President Erdoğan’s statement, “Turkey has no problem with the Taliban’s beliefs. I think we can get along better,” made just after the Taliban seized power, was seen as a warm message to the new regime.
After the coup attempt, Erdoğan consolidated his power in Turkey and became stronger as a leader who controls the judiciary, legislature and executive. Many believe that during the state of emergency declared after the failed coup, he established one-man rule by means of emergency decree-laws subject to neither judicial nor parliamentary scrutiny. The opposition claims that the coup attempt was also a false flag operation organized by Turkish intelligence to purge Erdoğan’s opponents. More than 130,000 public servants as well as 29,444 members of the armed forces were removed from their jobs. A total of 332,884 people were detained between July 15, 2016, and June 20, 2022 while 101,000 people were arrested.
Nordic Monitor previously reported how jihadist foundations financed by the Erdoğan government were using children in Africa to support Turkey’s military operations in Syria in 2019.
Singing the Turkish commando anthem, executing a military salute, wearing military uniforms, hailing Erdoğan, reading verses of the Qur’an for the victory of the army and recording messages of support for the military, children, even kindergarteners, have been the main actors in numerous social media video uploads.