Kerim Balcı: Thanks to PakTurk teachers, I got to know ‘love’ again

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December 1, 2021
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Kerim Balcı: Thanks to PakTurk teachers, I got to know ‘love’ again

Kerim Balcı

Journalist-writer Kerim Balcı explained the steps taken and the progress in the legal struggle initiated against the usurpation of the PakTurk Schools. Balcı also made significant remarks while describing the rapport the PakTurk teachers established with Pakistan and their students.

Journalist-writer Kerim Balcı, who for one prominently carries out the legal struggle of PakTurk Schools, made salient remarks about the Turkish teachers who worked in Pakistan. Stating he spent little time in Pakistan, for only one day and one night, Balcı said, “I got to know love again in PakTurkFile. I learned the love for Pakistan from the PakTurk teachers who left Pakistan.”

Teachers and administrators of the PakTurk Schools in Pakistan, which were usurped three years ago through the pressure of the incumbent Turkish government, give their struggle for rights and rule of law under the guidance of the London Advocacy Group. The PakTurkFile team, constituting the media and promotion component of this struggle, organized a fundraising campaign last Saturday, November 27, 2021. Journalist-writer Kerim Balcı, besides the educationists who worked at the PakTurk educational institutions, participated as speakers in the program broadcast live on Hizmetten and MC TV YouTube channels.

Speaking about the legal struggle for the PakTurk Schools, Balcı emphasized the altruism of the Turkish teachers who worked in Pakistan at the beginning of his remarks. Reminding how Mrs. Züleyha Özşahin, the teacher who spoke before him, studied English for days, sometimes until the morning, and rehearsed in empty classrooms to teach at the PakTurk Schools, Balcı said, “This inevitably makes me ask, ‘What did you do to have hundreds of teachers reunited with their 11 thousand students again?” It makes me say, ‘Did you work all night long for this objective?'”

‘The teachers loved their students; the students loved their teachers’

Stating that he organized seminar series named ‘Features of the Inheritors of the Earth’ at the Respect Graduate School during the summer break, Balcı added: “As you know, Hodjaefendi mentions ‘love’ as the feature number two (of the inheritors of the earth). In our society, the word ‘love’ is something which routinely brings something else to mind and reminds us of the questions, ‘Why didn’t he say passion or affection, enthusiasm, or desire?’ Yet, if you listen to a PakTurk teacher, you will see none of these words match what connects those people to Pakistan, and to their students there. They loved deeply and they served with profound love for 25 years. The seeds of that love also bore fruit. Those students also loved their teachers with deep love, and the parents loved those teachers with profound love.”

Expressing that a cruel hand separated the two lovers from each other at the end of 2018, in a sense, they forcibly separated (Allama Muhammad) Iqbal from Mevlana (Jalaluddin Muhammad Rumi), Kerim Balcı explained the details of this separation and the legal process that followed:

‘We made our decision; you don’t have to say anything else!’

“In December 2018, they phoned our lawyer and said, ‘There is a hearing about you in the Supreme Court of Pakistan tomorrow.’ There had been several attempts to extradite PakTurk teachers from Pakistan to Turkey earlier, but we won all the court cases filed by the teachers about issue. There had been requests regarding the transfer of schools, but we received favourable responses in all applications we made to both the administrative departments and the courts of law. Yet, all of a sudden, a phone call came from the Supreme Court of Pakistan – it was not normally the first court where a lawsuit would be filed – and our lawyer was summoned to the court. Our lawyer, who did not even know what was going on, appeared at the Court the next day and when he asked, “What’s the matter?” they said, “We received a petition about the organization you represent. It is reportedly an extension of a banned organization in Turkey. Therefore, we decided to declare yours a banned organization. What do you have anything to say about this?’ When our lawyer asked, ‘Your Honour, may we see the evidence?’, the judges said, ‘There is no need for evidence!’:

  • ‘We know this issue; if Turkish authorities said so, there’s no means to talk otherwise.’
  • ‘Alright, Your Honour, but won’t you direct us any questions to let us defend ourselves?’
  • ‘There’s nothing to defend as well, we have taken our decision already. Tomorrow, your schools will be seized.’

Schools were seized the next day. Normally, and according to the law, there is a right to appeal. Yet, the next day, the schools were confiscated with no grace period, before the legal remedies were exhausted. All these cannot be explained by anything other than political tight-marking.”

‘Rest assured; we will get our schools back one day’

“As of today, the conditions have not changed much in both Pakistan and Turkey. I have been in this process for two years, and I approach the issue very realistically. Yet, let no one doubt about the fact that one day we will get our schools back. This may take a long time and when that day comes, maybe we will start as 25 schools, not 11 schools. On that day, they might not be called PakTurk, but ‘British Schools’ or ‘American Schools’. They will bear the same love and the same passion, and maybe that day, the teachers of the PakTurk Schools or their children, bearing the passports of different countries, come back and revive that hearth of love in Pakistan.” 

“You may ask, ‘How did the process continue? Why hasn’t a lawsuit been filed so far? Why now?’ Unfortunately, there is no appellate court to move when the decision is taken by the Supreme Court. Pakistan does not have a higher court of appeal than the Supreme Court. For example, if you do not receive justice from the Constitutional Court in Turkey, you can even apply to the European Court of Human Rights. Similar incidents took place Niger: The international court with which that country is affiliated found the claims of the Hizmet Movement accurate and ordered the Niger government to pay compensation on the issue of the seizure of our schools there. A similar case is not possible in Pakistan: If the Supreme Court takes a decision, you can only appeal there.”

‘Objection was made, but the court did not even open our file’

“In January 2019, an appeal was filed to object the decision. Once again, the Supreme Court of Pakistan did not accept to examine our file. I got involved in that process and we said the so-called ‘terrorist organization declaration’ allegedly made by the Organization of the Islamic Conference-OIC (now known as the Organization of Islamic Cooperation-OIC) did not bear any feature of a decision. This organization did not have any mechanism empowered to proscribe any organization or person and declare them as ‘terrorist’, ‘terrorist organization’ or ‘banned’. Therefore, the OIC does not have the authority to take such a decision. We prepared an international expert opinion explaining no decision from the OIC could be binding without a decision given by the National Assembly of Pakistan. Yet, the Supreme Court of Pakistan did not even open the file to examine our viewpoint. This is exactly what they said: ‘We know what’s in this file. We do not see the need to open it.”   

“This was obviously a message left for the future. ‘We did not take this decision within the framework of the rules of law. We had to do this.’ The judges left the message for future generations. These judges are gradually retiring. Hopefully, when our case comes before the Supreme Court again, we will face an entirely different panel of judges.”

“Currently, our case is in the Islamabad High Court, a court corresponding to the Council of State in Turkey. We cannot sue the Supreme Court, so we sued the Government and said, “The government committed injustice by placing us in this ‘prohibited organizations’ list.”

‘Government of Pakistan has not fulfilled its responsibilities’

“As a matter of fact, the Government of Pakistan did not fulfil several things it should have done during the process. For example, it is yet to explain to us the reason why our foundation, which had actually been closed, was summarily included in the list of ‘proscribed organizations’. This is why, the ‘PakTurk Schools’ or the ‘PakTurk Cag International Educational Foundation’, of which titles are mentioned in the CVs of over 400 educationists who worked as teachers and administrators in those schools, is seen as a ‘banned organization’ in Pakistan. All of these people are victimized. Therefore, whenever the teachers who worked there apply for jobs elsewhere, they feel they should not mention these institutions.”

“We are currently at the phase of moving the Islamabad High Court. This court will of course convey us to the Supreme Court of Pakistan. The issue will shuttle between the court and the government departments; things will take shape according to the answers provided. For one, our website has been inaccessible in Pakistan due to the ban imposed by the Government of Pakistan. Therefore, we see the Turkish Embassy in Pakistan is aware of our work and tries to hinder it. It’s a good sign, meaning what we have been doing is right. It means we upset the Turkish authorities”

‘There are things we need to do for the integrity of the case’

“There are some things we need to do for the positive conclusion of our case. The first is not to make our friends we left in Pakistan forget our existence. We have to print the books we will publish in English and send them to our graduates, parents or people with whom we are connected with love in Pakistan and say to them, ‘Don’t forget us!’ We are planning to launch an Urdu website. If it is banned, we will launch another. We need to reach our friends there via YouTube and Facebook. As a matter of fact, the feedback we received from them through those platforms have been so nice. All these things require financial support. All these also require dedicated efforts.”

‘Why don’t you get involved about the Fatih or Yamanlar educational institutions?

“Finally, let me say these about the legal process: Some may ask, ‘Why do you only deal with the PakTurk Schools? Why don’t you get involved with the issue of the Afghan-Turk Schools or with educational institutions like Fatih and Yamanlar which were shuttered in Turkey?’ First, there is no other country other than Pakistan where a court of law declared a Hizmet-inspired institution as ‘proscribed’. We know well that the Turkish ambassadors have carried this Supreme Court of Pakistan decision in their hands and said in respective Muslim countries, ‘Look, Pakistan declared them ‘terrorists’ and seized their schools. We got those schools transferred to such-and-such foundation. You too should do the same in your country!’ Therefore, this litigation process will at least result in preventing the spread of such a thing, this is an achievement. Second, we will learn to manage an international litigation process. I hope when the circumstances change for better, we will win this case in Pakistan or Turkey, by Allah’s leave. Because this is a case impossible to lose. This outcome could have been achieved only through bribery or thanks to an inherent camaraderie. We do not need such means, but we do need to reach people influential in Pakistan. We need to talk to embassies on terms of fairness. We need to submit more documents.”  

“There is also a text in circulation, claimed to be a decision by the Gulf Countries Cooperation Council; it is actually a press release. Yet, the Turkish government presents that text as a ‘declaration denouncing a terrorist organization’. The Asian Parliamentary Assembly had issued a ‘sorry-to-hear-what-happened’ text, the Turkish government presented it as a ‘terrorist organization denouncement’ to the Supreme Court in Pakistan. The Supreme Court of Pakistan said, ‘Pakistan is a member of this union and this text binds us.’ However, there is no legal decision. The Asian Parliamentary Assembly is a goodwill union. It is like a club of assemblies. “The decision of the APA binds us,” was not meant to be uttered by a legal professional, yet it was uttered, and chronicled indelibly in the annals of history. Our lawyer was given the right to speak for 13 minutes in the first hearing and 4 minutes in the second hearing. This means that your right to defence has been taken away, these too will be recorded in history. If we chronicle these properly today, they cannot do the same to us when we go to the Supreme Court again. If we can send observers and lawyers from international bar associations that day, they cannot do the same to that case. In order to do this, we need support.”

‘What really matters is the number of people supporting our struggle’

“You can donate the GoFundMe campaign to show this support. What really matters here is to show how many people support this cause. This is a public relations drive. This will mean our lawsuit is justified and enjoys a popular following. PakTurkFile is one component. As Bediuzzaman said, “A glass of water is also water, you can also be thankful for the ocean as a whole, but by drinking a glass of water, you give thanks for all the water Allah has sent down to earth every year. PakTurk is such a glass of water. We also need to gather energy for our other usurped schools. If some friends wish to launch a project titled AfghanFile for this purpose, they will have a supporter in me. Yet, we must take to writing and to speaking. We need to keep our memories alive. Each of us rebuild our lives from scratch. Most of us experience a new education and learn new languages. If we rest to take a five-year break while being busy with these new endeavours, then no one will remember us. Our children will have grown up in five years; Pakistan might have been out of their lives.”

“Of course, Pakistan and PakTurk Schools are not the only concerns of the Hizmet Movement, but we need to revive that love. Because the time we take back the PakTurk educational institutions, we will not have only won the schools, but will also have actually won back for the people of Pakistan the teachers they loved so much. This is also a struggle for Pakistan. Our Pakistani friends are well aware of this, and I am sure the future generations of Pakistan future will be aware of this as well.”

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