FETO established many educational institutions both in Turkey and worldwide, including private schools and prep schools for university entrance exams, as well as student houses and dormitories. These served as centers for inculcating students with the organization’s propaganda, cultivating new members and generating a large circulation of money, unlike ordinary educational institutions.
In Turkey, the followers of Gulen’s cult established 934 schools at various levels ranging from preschools to high schools, 15 universities in ten cities, and 109 private dormitories for university students. FETO established its first school, known as the “Yamanlar High School,” in the city of Izmir in 1982. Gulen was said to have a room of his own in the building before he fled to the US in 1999.
The educational institutions of FETO extended beyond the borders of Turkey with more than 2,000 charter schools in 160 countries. The first protocol was signed to open a Turkish high school in Azerbaijan’s Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic in 1991. Gulenists have a broad network in most countries in the Balkan region. The cult has been active especially in Albania and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
The activities of FETO in Albania dates back to 1993 when it established the Gulistan Foundation. A year later, the Sema Foundation was set up to run privatized Islamic education facilities. In the capital Tirana, it runs three schools and two major universities Epoka and Beder, and two elementary schools in cities of Shkodër and Durrës. The group also runs Albania’s preschool education institution called Meridian.
Schools affiliated with the Gulenists in Bosnia and Herzegovina include four preschools, five elementary schools and one university (the International Burch University) in capital Sarajevo. Likewise, the cult owns schools in Kosovo, Serbia and Montenegro along with education centers and foundation assisting to run the schools.
There are 150 charter schools affiliated with the Gulenists in the US. The charter schools in four states are under FBI probes for fraud and forgery of documents, unlawful profits and irregularity. Most schools linked to Fetullah Gulen are located in the states of Texas, Ohio and California (see table below to see exact numbers per state). These schools generate about $500 million in revenue per year.
Los Angeles Times wrote on 12 October 2016 that three charter schools in California operating under the name Magnolia could be shut down for bringing teachers from Turkey using temporary work visas. Magnolia schools engaged in “poor financial management and inconsistent or incorrect internal policies,” according to the newspaper. President of the Board of directors of Magnolia Schools, Umit Yapanel, admitted he was a Gulen follower in an interview he gave to the LA Times on 31 August 2016.
According to Amsterdam & Partners LLP, a law firm that investigates the FETO charter school network in the US, “the Gulen-affiliated Harmony Public Schools have been allegedly engaging in widespread abuse of the H1B visa program, misappropriation of public funds, and discrimination against certain students and families.” A former Harmony student said she was bullied by a teacher after some teachers learned that the student was Jewish. A former teacher from Harmony explained with a video clip she recorded that students with special needs were discriminated against by teachers.
Furthermore, the school was “accused of fraud and financial malfeasance worth over $18 million.” The complaint filed by Amsterdam & Partners LLP against Harmony Public Schools put forward that the fraud in question rested on the fact that a company dubbed Charter School Solutions contracted by Harmony to manage its buildings and properties was in fact run by a Harmony employee.
Another controversial aspect of Harmony schools, which brags about a “100 percent” college acceptance rate, is its surreptitious relations with the North American University, yet another alleged FETO institution. A Washington Post article indicated that “a sizable number of Harmony graduates are accepted to the North American University” which did not comply with “its own admissions standards” and had “deep financial and governance ties” to Harmony schools.
In a news story based on court records, Concept Schools, another charter school chain linked to FETO, were “suspected of involvement in a $5 million fraud operation over accusations that they funneled the money from federal grants to Gulenists.” Just as Harmony, Concept Schools were also accused of engaging in financial activity with companies with which they had “close ties.”
Germany and the UK are other countries where FETO has been active since the 1990s. There are 24 schools and several foundations to support these schools in Germany. The first FETO organization in the UK was Axis Educational Trust which operates a number of prep centers and a school. Axis Tuition Centers are a chain of prep schools with around 1,000 students in 15 different locations. The Lighthouse Educational Society is another FETO-linked institution in south London with four branches in the Welling, Croydon, Harrow, and Tooting areas. The Amity Educational Foundation is based in east London, while Wisdom Primary and Secondary School is located in Tottenham in north London, where many Turks reside. These so-called education centers are supported through Gulen-affiliated foundations in the UK.