Erdogan said that members of the Gülen movement intend to bring down his government, and during the last year, he led a crackdown where all barred against the alleged members Gülenistes. On April 8, Erdogan told members of his ruling Justice and Development he had discussed this motion with Azerbaijani officials during a visit to Baku in April and was given a list of Azerbaijanis considered supporters Gülen. Azerbaijan is the closest regional ally of Turkey.
For several years, the Azerbaijani government has tried to restrict the activities of Islamist groups, but, until recently, had made no public action against supporters of Gülen. These people – called nurçular referring to Sunni theologian Said Nursi 20th century, which inspired the education initiatives Gülen – do not carry the same weight in Azerbaijani society as they have in Turkey. But over the past two weeks, there were several indicators that Baku changed its position.
Representatives of the Gülen movement deny the allegations Erdogan of having engaged in anti-state activity – but nervousness against groups critical of government is strong in Azerbaijan. In recent weeks, rampant speculation on social networks and pro-government media in Baku focused on the fact that members of the Azerbaijani government could sympathize with the Gülen movement. A suspected sympathizer Gülen, spokesman of the Presidential Administration Elnur Aslanov was fired on March 17.
The Azerbaijani government has not commented on the information. But without doubt, the events speak for themselves already.
In early March, Khalik Mammadov, Vice-President of the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan Republic (SOCAR) has announced that the energy company managed by the government took over management of 11 secondary schools in Turkish 13 centers of exam preparation universities and the private University of Baku-based Caucasus, all run by a Turkish company called educational CAG Öğrətim (Age Education).
Since 2011 SOCAR launched a network of schools in the alleged purpose is to improve the educational standards of Azerbaijan. CAG Öğrətim, now known as the International Centre for Education in Baku, Azerbaijan works since 1992 and has enjoyed a reputation for producing students disciplined sensitive to Islamic ethics and able to enter universities leading in the world.
CAG Öğrətim never acknowledged a link with the Gülen movement, but most education specialists from Azerbaijan and policy experts saw its facilities within the school network in 140 countries of the Gülen movement. Öğrətim AG is part of the International Association of Manufacturers and Entrepreneurs of Turkey and Azerbaijan, a group that contains many Turkish companies that uphold principles of Gülen.
Representatives of SOCAR did not elaborate on the interest of the conglomerate in schools but CAG Öğrətim Caucasus University was acquired last year and some observers see a link with suspicions of Turkey on the Gülen movement. “I think for the Azerbaijani authorities, the idea is definitely that” we can control more effectively if we manage, “commented specialist Bayram Balci Turkey to Paris, who worked in Baku for the French Institute of Anatolian Studies (IFEA).
In March, in a move seen as an attempt to target the finances of Gülen, Turkey closed private schools associated with Gülen who, like during Araz CAG Öğrətim, prepare students for university entrance exams. Erdoğan called on other countries to follow this example.
Balci explained that the Turkish government has probably called the “fraternal” Azerbaijan, a country which shares linguistic and cultural ties with Turkey, “pay attention” to these schools. “For the Azerbaijani government, it is a good opportunity to show Ankara Baku is always in solidarity with Ankara.”
SOCAR partner of Turkey longtime seems a natural candidate for any exercise. The spokesman for the company could not be reached for comment. Similarly, CAG Öğrətim has not responded to requests for interviews on the transition to SOCAR. The rector of the University of Caucasus Sanic Ahmet told EurasiaNet.org he prefers not to discuss the question “for a while.” Even if there was no pressure from Ankara, Azerbaijani leaders seem to have reason to be wary of schools and centers of exam preparation CAG Öğrətim. Outside Baku, schools exist in key regional centers such as population Ganja, Lankaran and Sumgait and more distant locations. This presence in the regions is a potential source of concern to the Azerbaijani government, which has faced large-scale regional events in recent years some observers believe.
“As former students of these schools, as elsewhere in the world, they have their own community. In Azerbaijan, where political parties and other institutions have been weakened, their network [school] … is more distinguished, “said Altay Goyushov, a professor of Islamic history at the State University of Baku. “This is what the Azerbaijani government does not like: The competition.”
Yet Erestin Orujlu, director of the research center East-West of Baku, says some officials use what happens against this movement in Azerbaijan simply to “weaken the position of the other.”
Aside Aslanov a published list of alleged Gülenistes Azerbaijan has also updated the names of Defense Minister Zakir Hasanov, the head of the State Committee for Work with Religious Organizations Elshad Iskenderov and ironically Mammadov of SOCAR.
As Aslanov, who now works at the Ministry of Communications, the Ministry of Defence denied the allegations about the alleged affiliation of Defence Minister Hasanov with the Gülen movement. Other persons named above have not commented publicly.
For some Azerbaijanis, silence is not a surprise. The allegations are “fabricated” accused Orujlu. “The Azerbaijani government does not face any threat of nurcu movement.”
Shahla Sultanova is a freelance journalist focusing on Azerbaijan.
Stéphane © armenews.com