The Gulen Movement is a transnational civil movement with forte in education and prominence in social, cultural, business, intercultural and inter-religious dialogue, media, charity and humanitarian services worldwide. All the activities conducted by the Movement involve making sustainable and substantial contributions to the peace worldwide. There are quite a few civic movements that operate in most parts of the world regardless of the people’s color, faith and ethnicity. The Gulen Movement is one of them.
Cem Karaca was a prominent Turkish rock musician. During 1990s, he met with Mr. Fethullah Gulen several times. When he was once asked about his opinion about Mr. Gulen, he replied,‘His surname is Gulen (one who smiles), but not ‘weep’ as he normally does. He wants everyone smile -as it is his last name- worldwide”.Cem Karaca said those words after observing many schools affiliated with the Gulen Movement worldwide as the hubs of love, tolerance and peace where these values are unequivocally represented and spread.
However, the real heroes of this story were distinctive as well. Thousands of educators who were inspired by Fethullah Gulen migrated to around 170 countries and worked for the sublime values and ideals to contribute to the peace worldwide. This movement of teachers was never seen at such a scale before in the history.
One of those teachers was Osman Karaca who left Turkey in 1996. He was a great educator with strong values and principles and wanted to espouse these values with everyone under any condition. He worked in Cambodia for many years. He was quickly accepted by everyone in Cambodia because of his soft nature and friendly character. He gained the praise of the local authorities and the community at large because of the educational activities he led. He moved to Mexico in 2011.
However, the Turkish Embassy in Phnom Penh acted as a long arm of the Erdogan regime and engaged in manipulating the Cambodian authorities about Osman Karaca. Even though he was a nationalized Mexican, theTurkish Embassy propagated that Mr. Karaca was indeed a Turkish national. In fact, Mr. Osman Karaca held dual nationality and had his entire documents in Cambodia authorized over his Mexican passport. This fact was veiled by the Turkish Embassy which finally managed to convince the Cambodian authorities. Mr. Karaca travelled with his Mexican passport and ID, and his Turkish ID and passport were left at home. In the meantime, the Turkish Embassy issued a new ID card for him and showed it to the Mexican Ambassador and the Consular Officer while Mr. Karaca was put out of sight. This led to Mr. Karaca’s arbitrary arrest by the Cambodian authorities and his deportation to Turkey.
I also had a chance to visit Cambodia several times. I visited all the K-12 schools and the international Zaman University there. I had a chance to talk to the local communities about the schools and quality of their services, and I was surprised a lot with the knowledge of the people about the Zaman International Schools, which are among the very best in the country. When the Turkish Embassy in Phnom Penh started targeting the schools, this issue caught the attention of the national media outlets. After the publication of the news on both print and broadcast media, everyone started talking about these schools and their future.
I also talked about those schools with a taxi driver once I was driving to one of them from the airport. He told me “The Zaman Schools are so famous in the country and people discuss about the imminent closure of those schools. When our prime minister was asked about it, he said, the Cambodian government was not interested in closing the schools.”
Zaman International Schools have been prominent educational institutions not only by their quality of instruction but also by their socio-economic and humanitarian services across Cambodia for many years. Many people are aware of the schools and their successes.
While Mr. Osman Karaca was on a business trip in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, that heartrending incident happened and he was deported back to Turkey as if he had done something wrong. All the international and local human rights organizations stood by Mr. Osman Karaca and asked his whereabouts for many days until the news of his deportation was finally confirmed. Until his deportation, none of us could receive any authentic information about his exact whereabouts. Cambodian authorities kept silent and provided no information at that time.
When Mr. Osman Karaca was deported and the Turkish media flashed the news about the overseas intelligence operation that had him deported, we came to know that he was in Turkey. It was a devastating moment for his family and all of his friends.
Several international human rights and civil society organizations followed Mr. Karaca’s case closely, resulting in the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions (WGAD) to conclude with its recent decision that the arrest, detention and forceful transfer of Mr. Osman Karaca from Cambodia on October 18, 2019 was arbitrary and in violation of international human rights norms and standards. It meant that the UN asked from the Government of Turkey to immediately release Mr. Osman Karaca. Mr. Karaca was arrested in Cambodia on October 14, 2019 and was deported to Turkey on October 18, 2019. Since then, he has been denied of his liberty by both Turkey and Cambodia. With the latest verdict of the UN, another international crime against humanity committed by the incumbent regime in Turkey was confirmed and noted.
At the present, Mr. Osman Karaca is in prison and everyone expects the Turkish judiciary to implement the UN decision and release Mr. Karaca soon.
Mr. Osman Karaca is only one of the numerous idealist educators who went overseas to contribute to education in respective countries. What happened to him saddens us all; yet, he and other educators and professionals who were arbitrarily arrested and deported at different times from different countries will be written with gold and silver in the annals of history.
Mr. Osman Karaca and his family always valued the people of Cambodia and loved the country as their second home where they had many wonderful memories. We should intensify our efforts in campaigning for Mr. Karaca’s urgent release. It is high time for him to rejoin his family in Mexico.