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Principal of Turkey-linked school in Bishkek accused of sexually abusing students

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The principal of a Turkey-linked primary school in the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek has been accused of sexually abusing students, a claim also confirmed by the Turkish Embassy in the country, the ukraynahaber news website reported on Thursday.

The Bishkek Turkish Primary School is run by the Turkish Education Ministry. The claim about the school’s principal, Ömer Aydın, was first raised by Kyrgyz deputy Irina Karamuskina in a speech she recently made in the Kyrgyz parliament.

The deputy said she had been contacted by the mother of a 9-year-old boy at the school who told the deputy that her son was sexually abused by the school’s principal. Other parents also contacted the deputy about the same issue.

“The parents of some students at the Bishkek Turkish School, which was illegally constructed on the campus of Manas University [run by the Turkish government] contacted me. The school has been operating for 20 years without a license because, in the words of Ömer Aydın, they have strong support behind them. When the parents applied to the Education Ministry, it turned out that ministry officials had no knowledge of the school,” said the deputy.

Following the eruption of the scandal, the Turkish Embassy in Bishkek made a statement on social media on Thursday, announcing that the principal and deputy principals of the schools had been removed from their posts and that an investigation has been launched into the claims.

The statement, which was made in Kyrgyz as well as Turkish and Russian, also said inspectors coming from Turkey would thoroughly investigate the claims and that there is ongoing cooperation with Kyrgyz authorities to shed light on the claims.

Although the school in question was not previously run by the Gülen movement, the Turkish government has been taking over Gülen-linked schools in many countries as part of its ongoing crackdown on the movement.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan launched a global and national witch-hunt targeting the movement following a failed coup attempt in Turkey in July 2016. Erdoğan and his government hold the movement responsible for the coup, a claim strongly denied by the movement.

After the 2016 coup attempt, Ankara asked governments in the region to shut down the schools run by the movement, but some were reluctant. Almazbek Atambayev, Kyrgyz president at the time, flatly refused to close the schools and simply had the educational network renamed.

The Turkish government established a foundation, named Maarif, prior to the coup attempt through legislation in the Turkish parliament, to take over the management of Gülen-linked schools abroad and after the abortive putsch, it targeted the closure of Gülen-linked educational institutions as part of Turkish foreign policy.

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