33 SES 17 A, Culture, Education and Gender Equality
The education of girls and their participation in society are problematic subjects in the last centuries, in particular in Turkey where two path-breaking gender approaches have been seen in history.. Initially, Atatürk, founder of the Turkish Republic, put this issue as a major subject in his reforms, which is known as Kemalism, and founded secular schools by copying the French education system in Turkey. However, despite all reforms of the young Turkish Republic, literacy rose from 11 percent (1927) to 33 percent (1950) with a wide gap between 46 percent literacy for males and only 19 percent for females . One of the main reason behind this issue is that Kemalism was accepted and supported only by nationalist elites’ who silenced and suppressed other groups of society such as non-Muslim minorities, the Kurds, and religiously committed Muslims, both Sunni and Alevi .
The second revolutionary approach to the issue came from Fethullah Gülen, who is the founder of the so-called Gülen movement. In the seventies and eighties, this educational movement founded private education institutions and schools, which are termed as Gülen Inspired Schools (GIS) according to scholars  and they have achieved remarkable success in the private education sector of Turkey . Throughout the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1990-91 and the independence of Central Asian Republics, the movement founded its first schools outside of Turkey in these newborn Central Asian Republics. After 2000, different Gülen inspired educational institutions were expanded to the whole world. Especially after the failed coup attempt in Turkey in 2016, Gülen and his movement were labeled as a Terror organization by president Erdogan and, only in Turkey, 2,213 private schools and private (tutorial) courses, 1,005 dormitories and boarding houses, and 22 Universities and affiliated hospitals were forfeited because of their affiliation with the movement .
From the perspective of girls’ education and the participation of women, the approach of the movement to the issue under the rise of Islam in Turkey since the sixties is a very controversial subject. The methodology of the Gülen inspired schools and Gülen’s thoughts on the subject have been criticized by both right and left-wing writers and scholars inside and outside of Turkey. Especially during the “Headscarf Debate” at the end of the nineties, Gülen became the target of both secular and conservative parts of Turkish society. All these critiques related to girls’ education and gender issue could be listed as follows:
- On the one hand, Gülen is shown or accepted as a patriarchal Islamic extreme conservative leader who does not believe in gender equality, mainly because of the physical weakness of women and women were valued only because of their “Mother” role for the reproduction of the new generations 
- On the other hand, Gülen is shown as a heretic, especially because of his approach to the headscarf, and betrayed Islam by not paying attention or dismissing some parts of the Qur’an .
- The movement is also criticized for dismissing women. The patriarchal structure of the movement does not allow women to achieve critical positions in the movement and the movement limited them only in several regions in social life like education or charity activities .
- Especially since the segregation of sexes is practiced in the Gülen movement and GISs it is shown that the movement and GISs are insincere to the subject .
The purpose of this paper is to examine the positioning of Gülen and the Gülen Inspired Schools in this dilemma under the shadow of the mentioned critiques, their contribution to the issue and future of the movement, and their schools from a broader perspective.
In addition to content analysis, a qualitative research method was selected in the field study to understand this controversial subject . One of the main reasons in this choice is the research questions which are based on a "how" question. Besides, the unique structure of the Gülen Movement and the lack of research about the Gülen inspired schools also play an important role in this choice. In the data collection part, only the "expert interview" method is available because of the controversial structure of the subject. However, expert interview fits very well to this research which helps the researcher collect high-quality data. Participants of this study could be categorized into four groups. In the first group, nine school managers (3 in the U.S., 3 in Europe, and 3 in Africa) in six different countries of the world were visited and interviewed. The reason behind the selection of these regions is the sustainable conditions of the GISs which helps the researcher to get reliable data. The second group (3 Experts) is members of the Gülen Movement as an insider who participated in different projects of the movement for many years. The third group (3 Experts) is the scholars or journalists outside of the movement who have a neutral-positive approach to the movement. The last group (3 Experts) consists of experts who have a skeptical approach and criticize the movement from different aspects. In total, there were 18 structured expert interviews, which enables the comparison of different thoughts and understandings. Besides, the researcher conducted a countless number of talks and discussions with teachers, parents, and students of these schools. All data is collected by face-to-face semi-structured interviews which are recorded and transcribed so that the detailed analyses can be easily carried out . Mainly because of the actual situation of the movement, the researcher of the study decided to anonymize all the participants’ names. In the data analysis part, the Maxqda program was used because of its special features and availability and Gläser and Laudel’s procedures was followed.^13 Besides, the researcher of the study practiced five general criteria for qualitative researchers which Mayring explained in his book, such as procedural documentation, rule structured construction, argumentative interpretation assurance, proximity to the object and communicative validity . Conducting the field study in the mentioned three continents and only having one data collection method available for the research are several important limitations of the study.
The results show that Gülen and his followers paid attention to the structure of Turkish society and political conditions, such as urban immigration, the rise of Islam and conservatism, etc … and founded sex-segregated schools and dormitories in Turkey until 1998 . However, unexpectedly during the headscarf debate, the movement supported the secularist approach, changed their schools to a mixed school format, and encouraged their female students and followers to continue their education without a headscarf . Similarly, in this study in different parts of the world, it was demonstrated that the “Localization” strategy of the movement decided the school structure of the GISs, not the movement’s identity or principles. Besides, the movement is very sensitive to distance their schools from any controversial subjects related to religion or politics and instead solely focus on education based on global ethical values and modern science education. The role of women in the movement and the general approach of Gülen and his movement to gender issues are another side of the coin. It was observed in the literature review part that both positive  and negative  Research was conducted related to the issue. Similarly, during the field study, different understandings and approaches of female participants made the issue complicated to evaluate. Despite this uncertainty, it was observed in the field study that the failed coup attempt is a corner-stone for the movement. Especially after the event, women’s participation in social and professional life is more welcomed and encouraged in the movement. In this new era, the movement transforms its traditional structure and gets close to a more western understanding of this issue. These current changes, detractors’ approaches, and future predictions related to this issue are discussed from a broader perspective in this paper
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