Turkey Cries Terrorism After First Lady's Visit To Tulsa

Wednesday, March 13th 2019, 8:09 am
By: Grant Hermes

While Americans saw a harmless visit to a Tulsa school, the country of Turkey saw a nod to terrorism during the First Lady’s visit to Oklahoma last week.

In the days after First Lady Melania Trump visited the Dove School of Discovery in Tulsa, Turkish state run media and the Turkish government began criticizing the visit saying it was a tacit stamp of approval of the school's leader, whom the government there considers to be a terrorist.

The Turkish government believes Dove Academies has ties to the Muslim cleric Fetullah Gulen. The 77-year-old, Gulen leads a secretive religious movement fled to the US and lives in Pennsylvania.

However, Dove Schools says it has no ties to Gulen.

Turkey's President Recep Erdogan accuses Gulen of leading a failed coup against him in 2016. Erdogan has asked the US to allow Gulen to be extradited back to Turkey, but US authorities have asked for more evidence of a direct link to the coup.

Erdogan has also targeted Gulen’s outspoken supporters in the US. In one of the most high-profile cases, Erdogan placed an arrest warrant out for former Thunder player Enes Kanter. Kanter, a follower of Gulen and outspoken critic of Erdogan, had to stay behind during this year’s NBA season while his former team, the New York Knicks, played in London for fear of being arrested.

One of [the charges] was insulting the president on twitter. I think that shows there's no freedom of speech in Turkey,” Kanter told CBSN in January. “If you speak out against Erdogan. That means you're a terrorist.”

Kanter’s father was arrested and jailed for several weeks in 2017 in an alleged attempt to lure Kanter back to Turkey. Kanter did not return and his father was sentenced to 15 years in prison in 2018 for his alleged connection to Gulen.

The First Lady’s visit also left Turkish experts scratching their heads.

OU professor of International Studies Joshua Landis said the visit opened "an ongoing wound" between the US and Turkey. He added it didn't do anything to improve a relationship which has "soured" in recent years as the US has continued to back Kurdish forces in the region, which Erdogan also views as a terrorist organization. He added the First Lady and her staff likely walked into a situation they didn't realize was so sensitive.

In response to criticism, the First Lady's office told the Washington Post the Dove school was recommended, vetted and chosen because of its recent national charter school award.

Dove schools released a statement in response to the Turkish government’s backlash saying Dove Schools is not affiliated with Gulen. 

See the schools full statement below: 

A story in the Washington Post warrants a response from our school’s leadership:

Dove Schools is not involved in the political turmoil taking place in Turkey in any way.

Dove Schools first began serving Oklahoma students in 2000. In the 19 school years, DOVE has consistently succeeded in providing a rigorous college preparatory STEM-based curriculum with a strong emphasis on discipline, character education, and service to the community. With a diverse student body of over 85% minority (African-American, Hispanic, Asian, and Others) and over 80% free/reduced lunch each year of operation, Dove serves the students and families who need the most help, in both Tulsa and Oklahoma City.

We consider it a great honor this week to have hosted First Lady Melania Trump. She and the White House could have chosen any number of high-performing schools across the country. They chose Dove because it’s a character-based school with extraordinary results in academic achievement.

As Mrs. Trump said, “Dove Schools embody kindness, respect, positive interactions, and strong character through the curriculum.”

Dove Schools is not affiliated with any religious or social organization. Dove Schools is run by an independent board of directors.

We are proud of our status as one of Oklahoma’s best-performing schools, which routinely has 100 percent college acceptance rate among graduating seniors. Our children and their families are our priority, and will continue to be our primary focus.

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