Groups linked by Turkish envoy to terror deny claims

July 15, 2017 - 10:20 AM
A man waves Turkey's national flag during a rally in the aftermath of last year's failed coup. (Reuters)

MANILA, Philippines — Two educational foundations that Turkey’s ambassador claimed have links to an alleged terror organization have denied the accusation.

In a joint statement, the Integrative Center for Alternative Development Foundation Inc. and the Pacific Dialogue Foundation Inc., both nonprofit organizations, said they “have never been involved in any criminal activities, much less terrorist activities in the Philippines or elsewhere. ICAD and PDF are also not affiliated with any terrorist organization.”

On Thursday, Ambassador Esra Cankorur said a “Fethullah Gulen Movement” had taken root in the country through schools she identified as the Filipino Turkish Tolerance School in Zamboanga City and the Fountain International School in San Juan City.

Both schools were founded and are run by ICAD, which was established in the country in 1996.

The PDF, on the other hand, was set up in 2011 by Filipino and Turkish volunteers. Among the activities it has undertaken, according to its websites, are several discussions on religious extremism in universities, as well as with the military and police and the Philippine Military and Philippine National Police Academies.

Gulen, after who Cankorur said the alleged terror movement is named, is a self-exiled religious leader based in the United States who Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan accuses of being behind a botched coup attempt last year. The US has so far refused to deport Gulen to Turkey despite the gravity of the charges.

A Reuters profile of Gulen said he did found a movement formally called Hizmet, Turkish for “service” that has “set up hundreds of schools and businesses in Turkey and later abroad, with an initial focus on post-Soviet Turkic-language-speaking Central Asia.”

Reuters reported that Gulen’s “philosophy stresses the need to embrace scientific progress, shun radicalism and build bridges to the West and other religious faiths.”

But the Turkish ambassador claimed “the movement also has foundations on the cultural side.”

“This is their facade, thinking them as civic education institutions and innocent charity organizations. That will be a huge mischaracterization; that is wrong. They are the facade. They talk about inter-faith dialogue, but they are concealing themselves,” she said.

“We do not and have never had any links with any group involved in terror attacks,” added ICAD and PDF.

Reacting to the envoy’s claims, the government and security services said they were verifying her statements.

In the statement issued with PDF, ICAD said the schools it runs do not teach religion and accept students of all religious backgrounds, pointing out its mandate is to promote peace and understanding through education among people of diverse cultures.