Turkey: The Country's Biggest Religious Movement Educates Kurds, and not Everyone Is Happy
There is a studious silence in the basement floor of the Rose Pink Women's Education and Mutual Aid Association in Diyarbakir, the largest city in Turkey's mainly Kurdish southeast.
In three classrooms, 70 12-year-old girls are hard at work studying for exams that will decide their secondary school future. Wearing headscarves that bar them from working in Turkish state schools, volunteer teachers advise struggling students. In the library across the corridor, Ministry of Education-required course books rub shoulders with encyclopedias and a copy of Charles Dickens' Hard Times, in English.
Like 24 other facilities newly opened in Diyarbakir to provide free after-school education, Rose Pink was set up by followers of Turkey's most influential religious leader, Fethullah Gulen.
A former state imam who has lived in the United States since 2000, the 67-year-old Gulen has always prized education. With an estimated following of between 3 million and 5 million, he has established hundreds of schools worldwide, including in the United States, sub-Saharan Africa and Pakistan.
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Nicolas Birch specializes in Turkey, Iran and the Middle East.