After years of attempts at inner-party reform, dissidents of Jombesh, one of Afghanistan’s major political parties, have given up. They have left and created a new party; not very surprisingly it is called the “New Jombesh.” The recent departure to Turkey – officially for ‘medical treatment’ – by ‘old’ Jombesh leader (and First Vice President) Abdul Rashid Dostum indirectly facilitated this step. AAN’s co-director, Thomas Ruttig (with input by Ali Yawar Adili), takes a closer look at this emerging competition for the leadership over Afghanistan’s Uzbeks. New Jombesh's leadership, with Alem Sa'i (4th from left) and Ahmad Eshchi (5th from left)
A new political party has been launched by dissidents from Abdul Rashid Dostum’s Jombesh. Jombesh-e Nawin-e Afghanistan (New Movement of Afghanistan) officially declared its existence – the step traditionally taken by new Afghan parties before officially registering – at a press conference on 11 June 2017.
The new party’s launch happened only a month after the ‘old’ Jombesh’s leader Abdul Rashid Dostum, a former warlord of Uzbek ethnicity who is also the country’s First Vice President, left Afghanistan for Turkey. Ostensibly, this trip was for ‘medical treatment’. In fact, it amounted to an all-but-official dismissal from his position in response to Dostum’s involvement in a high-profile case of violence against a former political ally (more on this below). (1) While in Turkey, Dostum joined a new tripartite Etelaf bara-ye Nejat-e Afghanistan (Alliance for the Salvation of Afghanistan) forged in his Ankara residence; it is a coalition between his ‘old’ Jombesh, Jamiat-e Islami and the wing of the Hazara-dominated Hezb-e Wahdat led by Muhammad Muhaqqeq (see here). (A separate AAN dispatch on this issue will follow soon.)
The removal of Dostum from the scene and the establishment of yet another opposition alliance are additional expressions of the multi-faceted crisis that the National Unity Government (NUG) has faced since it was established almost three years ago. This crisis is now increasingly underpinned by ethnic and political polarisation, both within the NUG and beyond (for information about earlier episodes of the crisis see AAN analysis here, here and here).
With the overshadowing figure of Dostum away and his return unclear, the dissidents dared to do what they had tried to avoid for more than a decade whilst pushing for reform (and, without saying it aloud, trying to sideline the volatile Dostum) – they made a break with the mother party. (For more on the reform attempts in Jombesh, see this 2012 AAN report)
While the new party still has to register, the new Jombesh is, for now, led by a temporary executive council. The first party congress will be held “soon” according to Muhammad Alem Sa’i, the party’s current leading figure. Sa’i is a former governor of Jowzjan (2009-13) and, at the time, has led an interesting group of younger Turkish-educated reformers called the Aidan Group. The members of this group owe their careers to Dostum after he had selected them for scholarships abroad. They tried, after their return to Afghanistan, to win his support for their own claim to the party leadership, but this failed. In 2013, Dostum and Sa’i fell out over the latter’s refusal to join the opposition alliance to which Dostum then still belonged, the National Front of Afghanistan. After protests staged by Dostum’s followers against Sa’i, and an attack on his residence, (media report here), the central government decided to replace Sa’i as governor.
According to Sa’i, the new party has already been unofficially operating and recruiting members in Kabul and the provinces for four years. He claimed it had branches in 25 provinces and members from all ethnic groups.
The original Jombesh, officially called Jombesh-e Melli-ye Islami-ye Afghanistan (National Islamic Movement of Afghanistan), is one of the country’s main tanzims, ie the military-political networks that emerged during the fight against the Soviet occupation (1979-98). This one, however, was originally set up by the communist regime as a security guard (a “group for the defence of the revolution”) around the oilfields of Sherberghan in Jowzjan province and Dostum’s home area. (2) Jombesh had, and still has, its main basis drawn from among the Turkic-speaking population of northern Afghanistan. These are mainly the larger Uzbek ethnic groups and fewer Turkmens.
However, Jombesh’s and Dostum’s clout does not solely come from a successful appeal to ethnic loyalties. Dostum has also, consistently and successfully, prevented contenders for the leadership emerging from within his party and the wider ethnic community. If necessary, he acted ruthlessly, even vis-à-vis his own close followers, if they deviated from his line or threatened to become too much of a challenge. In the past, there were also hand-outs to his followers and to Sheberghan’s population (such as free gas supply, a feature that now appears to have ceased). Such hand-outs were financed from his control over the Sheberghan gas fields and, according to reports that are difficult to verify, payments from regional allies in Central Asia and beyond, including, at least for some time, the US (see, for example, this report, p 4). Dostum was also among those warlords who were re-mobilised with CIA money as allies against the Taleban in 2001; the Washington Post, at that time, called him “America’s man in Afghanistan”.
New Jombesh’s political positions
The New Jombesh has clearly put itself in the government’s camp. In its first statement in mid-May 2017 (still before its official launch) published over social media – the communication channel of choice for many Afghan politicians, political parties and social groups – the party declared its unequivocal “support for the government under the leadership of President Ghani,” adding that the government should “complete its term.”
In the on-going debate about the failures of the National Unity Government and the demands by the opposition for reforms (demands that are often primarily aimed at the re-distribution of government positions) or even a change in the political system (AAN analysis here), the New Jombesh has rejected demands for resignation of the National Unity Government and early presidential elections. It also announced that it would take part in the recently scheduled 2018 parliamentary elections.
On the subject of the recent terrorist attacks and protests in Kabul (see AAN analysis here, and here), the New Jombesh tried to take a balanced position, as it called for “deep and fundamental reforms to the security agencies,” the avoidance of “any political, ethnic and regional taste” in the demands of the opposition, and the identification and prosecution of the perpetrators of the terrorist attacks. Muhammad Alem Kohkan, the secretary of the New Jombesh, even offered up the party as a mediator between the protestors and the government. (3)
The new party’s first official statements do not distinguish it much from other Afghan political parties. The catchwords used are familiar: supporting national unity, reform and political pluralism with this based upon “the principles of Islamic and human ethics” and aspiring to “consolidate the democratic system.”
The name of the new party suggests that the dissident’s break with the mother-party is not that clear-cut and that it probably intends to, in the first place, recruit among the ‘old’ Jombesh’s core base: the northern Afghan Turkic-speakers or turk-tabaran (4). In order to do so, it has raised Jombesh’s old battle cry over the Uzbeks’ (or Turks’) under-representation in the government institutions demanding a “fair representation of different ethnic and social groups.” With its potential connections to the (resources of the) government – from which Dostum once more has become estranged – this amounts to a veritable challenge to the so far unchallengeable Dostum.
At the same time, the new party – just as the ‘old’ Jombesh did – tries to reach out to other ethnic groups, not least because Afghanistan’s laws governing political parties exclude purely ethnicity-based parties. The new party called upon “all well-natured and patriotic countrymen, including respected ulema, tribal elders, civil and media activists, traders, business people, farmers, workers, women and youths, who wish to participate actively and constructively in the political struggle” to join. It remains to be seen, though, whether the provincial branches of both Jombeshs have really managed to recruit significant numbers of non-turk-tabaran. (5) Although the ‘old’ Jombesh also always aspired to develop a base among non-Turks, it was never overly successful.
Unsurprisingly, and probably correctly, Sa’i portrayed the establishment of the new party as a continuation of earlier attempts to reform Jombesh from the inside (read AAN analysis of the earlier attempts here and here). In a 18 June 2017 interview with Kabul-based newspaper Madanyat, he said that, as deputy head of the old Jombesh, he had tried to bring reforms to the party, but there had been “no open ear to pay attention to these ideas and programmes” and that in the party “flattering is heeded more than thought, talent and programme.” He also criticised the old party for being “monopolised by one family,” adding that “no role is granted to people outside the family of General Abdul Rashid Dostum.” Therefore, he said, a council, not an individual, would lead the new party.
Esmatullah Raghib, a columnist for the Ghor-based Jam-e Ghor website, criticised Dostum for having allowed both Karzai and Ghani to repeatedly “deceive” him “without learning from the experience”. Indeed Karzai, for example, had given Dostum the title of “Chief of Staff to the Commander in Chief of the Afghan National Army,” a grandiose-sounding position without staff, mandate or budget. Raghib also accused Dostum of “suppression” of the younger, educated generation of Uzbeks who wanted to become politically active outside Jombesh.
A chain of allies-turned-foes
Known politicians among the new party’s leaders who are mentioned in the media include Jamahir Anwari (a Turkmen and former Minister of Refugees and Repatriation Affairs), Hashim Ortaq (an MP from Faryab), Nazari Turkman (a former deputy speaker of the Wolesi Jirga from Kunduz) and Ezzatullah Amed, former head of Kabul Polytechnic. Former Minister of Mines Wahidullah Shahrani has denied his reported association with the party.
Ahmad Eshchi, son of an arbab (rich landlord), and former governor of Dostum’s home province Jawzjan in the 1990s, and a son who is a member of Jowzjan’s provincial council have also joined, as photos on social media show. Eshchi – formerly and better known as Engineer Ahmad – was involved in a widely reported personal conflict with Dostum in late 2016, after which Eshchi accused Dostum of serious physical assault and abuse (see, for instance, one media report here).
The case was never fully investigated, although there were arrest warrants issued for a number of Dostum’s bodyguards and Afghanistan’s donors reportedly strongly supported such a move. When Dostum refused to cooperate with the attorney general, government security forces surrounded his residence and then stood down after he mobilised his own armed supporters.
This was only the latest outbreak in a long-standing political rivalry between Eshchi and Dostum. Having joined Jombesh in the 1990s with a small, but well-organised, northern, left-leaning faction of the 1980s’ ruling People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan, called Groh-e Kar (Labour Group), Eshchi had already once tried to set up a rival party to Jombesh in the north. In 2003, together with former left-wingers including Groh-e Kar, he launched Jombesh-e Hambastegi-ye Melli Afghanistan (National Solidarity Movement of Afghanistan). His attempt to run for president one year later was prevented by Dostum who feared a split of his vote bank. Eshchi temporarily returned to Jombesh but, in 2016, Dostum accused him of financing “the opposition” and being involved in “security problems”. Both were references to cooperation with the Taleban, or other personal enemies, as Dostum’s convoy had been attacked twice by insurgents while he was personally leading anti-Taleban operations in the north (see media reporting here and here).
Somewhat similarly, another former Dostum ally-turned-foe became part of the New Jombesh: Gul Muhammad Pahlawan who, together with his family, fell out with Dostum after he allegedly ordered the assassination of his brother, Faryab-based commander Rasul Pahlawan in 1996 (Rasul, a Dostum ally, had refused to give up ‘autonomy’ to the latter with his stronghold in Jowzjan). Another brother, General Abdul Malek Pahlawan, who had risen to become Dostum’s deputy, turned the guns against him in revenge in 1997 and helped the Taleban take over Mazar-e Sharif. Later, in 2004, Malek was part of a first attempt to wrest at least part of the northern Turkic electorate from Dostum’s control when he set up Hezb-e Azadi (Freedom Party). (6)
Legal action and elections
Dostum interpreted the investigation against him and his bodyguards in the Eshchi case as an attempt by the president and his allies to sideline, not just himself, but the Uzbeks in general. A few months after he became First Vice President of the country – the highest position ever taken by an Uzbek in Afghanistan – he had accused the president of only giving him unimportant tasks, such as the oversight over the National Olympic Committee. He was “not Ronaldo,” he was quoted as saying then, referring to the Portuguese football star, “You can’t just throw a football at me.”
This was followed by complaints that the government had not supported him when he was attacked during his 2016 anti-Taleban operations, and that National Security Advisor Hanif Atmar and intelligence chief Massum Stanaksai (both Pashtuns) had conspired against him and wanted him killed – implicitly accusing them of being part of a “fifth column” within the government (quoted from this Dari video). He accused Ghani of favouring Pashtuns in his government, particularly from his home province Logar.
The Eshchi case was not the first time legal action was sought against Dostum for violence against a former ally. In 2008, Ghani’s predecessor Karzai suspended Dostum from office and wanted him arrested after a similar case of “kidnap and torture” of Akbar Bai. (7) The latter had accused Dostum of planning the murder of political rivals in his ethnic group, but was also preparing a challenge to Dostum’s political leadership among the turk-tabaran. (8) Dostum’s guards prevented a planned arrest by shooting at the police. In a similar move as that involving the recent departure of Dostum, Karzai and his US allies persuaded him to take a ‘vacation’ in Turkey. (9) One year later, he was brought back, in what the Telegraph called “a last minute gambit by Mr Karzai to secure an ethnic bloc vote which had seemed likely to split in recent weeks.”
The embarrassment potential of the Eshchi case for president Ghani comes from the fact that he had put Dostum on his 2014 presidential ticket in the first place, while full-knowing his background and volatile character. Although Ghani had forced Dostum to half-apologise for his civil war atrocities (see AAN reporting here), the alliance was criticised – particularly as Ghani, during his first attempt at the presidency in 2009, had called Dostum, then a Karzai ally, a “known killer” (quoted here). In order to get Dostum on his side, Ghani had to extract Dostum from an opposition alliance that, in the run-up to this election, united almost all political forces that were considered as the main representative of the three largest non-Pashtun ethnic groups: the Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazaras (see here and here). To do so, Ghani offered Dostum the first vice-presidency, so far always held by a Tajik – with ‘his’ Uzbek vote block that numerically was large enough to have swung the 2014 result in Ghani’s favour. (10)
The publicity generated by the Eshchi affair enabled President Ghani to generate enough pressure to make Dostum leave on a pretext while, at the same time, avoiding a public break with him and deepening the on-going government crisis. (Some Afghan media reports quoted a spokesman of the president as saying that, if Dostum was proven innocent in the investigations in the Eshchi case, he could resume working in his position (see for example here).
‘Old’ Jombesh’s reaction
The old Jombesh party reacted with derision to the establishment of the new Jombesh. On the day of its launch, it said it considered the newcomers “affiliated with the government” who would not cause “any disruption or split to the Jombesh party”. Some Dostum supporters went further, calling the New Jombesh “agents of the Palace” and announced on their social media pages that the new party would “not be allowed to operate among the turk-tabaran”. Abdullah Rahimi, a Jombesh representative in Germany, even likened the new party’s leadership with “suicide bombers imported from other side of the border” on his Facebook account.
Already in mid-March, with the Eshchi affair at its zenith, Dostum – who since the last party congress in 2008 officially is ‘only’ Jombesh’s “honorary chairman” – made it clear that he was not willing to rescind control over the mother-party. After years of non-family members being nominal heads of the party, (11) he had his oldest son, Haji Bator Dostum, “unanimously elected” as acting head “until the convening of its fourth congress”, which has regularly been announced since 2011 when it had originally been due. (12)
A Turkey link?
Afghan observers with knowledge of Jombesh’s internal discussions told AAN they believe Turkey played a role in the promotion of the younger generation of Afghan Uzbeks now leading the New Jombesh and supported the removal of Dostum from the Afghan scene by agreeing to host him. A number of the new party’s leaders, including Sa’i, have studied in Turkey – ironically with grants handed out via Jombesh. They also believe that the Afghan government, with possible support by Washington, obtained President Recep Tayyib Erdogan’s support to host Dostum again. (13) In exchange, they say, Ghani conceded control over a network of Afghan-Turk schools to the government in Ankara in February 2017. This was also reported by Afghan media. (14)
There have been good relations between the government in Ankara and the co-Turk Dostum ever since Turkey, after the break-up of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, tried to project some influence, if not political hegemony, over Turkic Central Asia (which, geographically, extends to the northern slopes of the Hindukush, including what used to be called Afghan Turkestan). Also, Turkey had hosted Dostum already and has been home for parts of his family for some years now. By hosting Dostum again, observers argue, this would further obligate Ghani to the Erdogan government and give the latter increasing influence in Afghanistan.
A ticket home for Dostum?
The establishment of the New Jombesh is the result of a combination of genuine, but failed attempts to reform one of the most powerful parties of the country. It is a foreboding of political positioning before the coming elections. Its break with the mother party seems to herald the end of the attempts for inner-party reform in the original party. Given Dostum’s known reaction to inner-party dissent, a way back for its leaders seems out of the question. They obviously hope to gain the support of the president’s camp by providing it with a platform to mobilise Uzbeks and Turkmens of northern Afghanistan independently from Dostum for the parliamentary elections in 2018 and the next presidential election in 2019.
Whether the president’s side will take up this offer depends on whether it wants to use Dostum’s absence from the country to sideline, or at least weaken, an unloved ally without losing face and to create a political alternative in his ethnic stronghold – or whether it chooses to patch up the conflict with Dostum, as Karzai did before the 2009 presidential election. The reports of his possible return, if the investigation against him (or rather, his bodyguards) proves his innocence, seem to point to the latter. Such an outcome would appear to strengthen Dostum’s hand, as he would, not only return to his vice-presidential position, but also could likely increase the price for his support for the Ghani ticket in the upcoming elections. The fact that Dostum has joined the tripartite “Alliance for the Salvation of Afghanistan” suggests that he is positioning himself to either challenge the government or to use this challenge as a bargaining chip. (A separate AAN dispatch on this issue will follow soon.)
The return of a strengthened Dostum would cement his quasi-monopolistic role as “the Uzbek leader” – a role he is consistently given by the country’s leadership and its allies, as well as the media – and would be another backlash for the emergence of more pluralistic (party) politics in Afghanistan. The new Jombesh, in that scenario, is likely to end up in the margins of Afghanistan’s political landscape. However, the final break of the erstwhile Jombesh reformers with the mother party also shows that there is, both a need, and a niche, for political alternatives in northern Afghanistan.
(1) For now, the Afghan government is officially sticking to the medical treatment version and has called rumours about Dostum being sent into exile “baseless”. The Afghan news agency Tolo reported that relatives had “forced” Dostum to have treatment in Turkey.
(2) During the 1980’s civil wars, Jombesh, which was, in essence, a militia, fought on the side of the Soviet-backed Najibullah government (1987-92) against the mujahedin. It quickly became the regime’s unofficial shock troop. Its brutal forays into southern Afghanistan earned Dostum’s fighters the nickname of kelim-jam, meaning “carpet thieves”. (They did more than just stealing, as reported by the Afghanistan Justice Project (pp 49ff). In 1987, Dostum’s militia was upgraded to the 53rd Infantry Division of the army and, in 1990, he officially became a division commander and a general (see this report, p 17). Five years later, in 1992, with the Najibullah government losing Russian financial support, Dostum did a last-minute about-face. His men occupied Kabul airport, joined the mujahedin and handed Kabul to them; they also prevented Najibullah from boarding a plane into exile in India. As a reward, Hazrat Sebghatullah Mujaddedi, the first interim president of the new mujahedin government, officially gave Dostum his general’s rank again. The mujahedin’s mistrust vis-à-vis the ‘former communist’, though, never fully went away.
As a party, Jombesh was created in early spring 1992, immediately after Dostum’s break with the Najibullah government, under the name of Jombesh-e Shemal (Movement of the North) (see this AAN report, p4). Initially, it was designed as an all-northern counterweight to Shura-ye Nazar, the Jamiat commanders’ network set up by late Ahmad Shah Massud. Atta Muhammad Nur, then a local Jamiat commander outside Mazar-e Sharif, was initially actually a deputy leader of Jombesh (see this report, p 2). Periodically, Jombesh also included Tajiks and Pashtuns, depending on the shifts of regional alliances in northern Afghanistan. After a few months, in June 1992, the party officially was renamed “Jombesh.”
(3) Kohkan has been a member of the executive council of the Rights and Justice Party that was headed by National Security Advisor, Hanif Atmar. Before that, he was active in Jombesh’s cultural and publication section. He is said to be a relative of Hashem Ortaq, an MP from Maimana (Faryab province), whose name is also mentioned as a leading member of the new Jombesh.
(4) Turk-tabar can also relate to an even broader ethnic spectrum or Central Asian background, including the Tajiks, for example.
(5) This has not been overly successful, even in the case of old Jombesh. In 2005, for instance, it adopted a fringe party from Nangrahar province – Hezb-e Mobarezin-e Melli-ye Demokrat-e Solh-e Afghanistan (Party of National Democratic Fighters for Peace in Afghanistan) – as its local branch and awarded its leader Zhan Pacha Shinwari with a seat on Jombesh’s political committee. Shinwari was expelled again in 2013 (source: Aina TV, 16 June 2005).
(6) After 1997, Malek (who does not use the takhallos Pahlawan anymore) fell out with the Taleban again and fled to the US. The Taleban were so upset about his ‘treason’ that, when the US demanded the extradition of Osama ben Laden after the October 2000 terrorist attack against a US navy vessel in the Gulf of Yemen, they asked for Malek in exchange.
Malek’s Hezb-e Azadi (Freedom Party) was registered in 2004, but disappeared after the Ministry of Justice’s 2010 re-registration drive. See also this non-AAN report by the author, pp 29/30. Initially the Freedom Party received protection from Dostum’s main northern rival Atta, from Jamiat-e Islami. Later, it was allied with then president Hamed Karzai but, in 2014, Malek supported Abdullah in the election. He currently serves as an adviser to Abdullah.
(7) Another case of violence against a Jombesh dissident was reported by the New York Times in June 2006.
(8) Another leading Turkmen departing Jombesh was Ismail Munshi, from Aqcha in Jowzjan. Munshi was a former deputy head of Jombesh’s Executive Council, who walked out on Dostum and the party at a 2011 political committee meeting (here, p 9). It is striking that those who fell out with Dostum were often Turkmens. As AAN had already written in 2011, the “Turkmen are the group who have particularly struggled for reforms in the party and have their own leaders among the Jombesh leadership.” (see AAN previous analysis here) Also, on the role of the Turkmens in Jombesh see this report, pp 7-9.)
(9) This was not Dostum’s first stint in Turkey. He lived there between 1998 and 2001, after the Taleban ousted him from Mazar-e Sharif, up to his return in 2001 as an US ally (see this report, p 19).
(10) As the 2004 presidential election showed, when Dostum ran and had exactly 10 per cent of the total vote, he has a potential of around 800,000 votes. This is more than double the margin Ghani was over the 50 per cent threshold in 2014. (The total number of valid ballots cast in 2014 was given as 7,120,585, of which Ghani had 3,935,567 and Abdullah 3,185,018. This represents a difference of around 750,000 votes. See the figures here and here)
(11) The non-family member leaders included Sayyed Nurullah Sadat, who had been acting head since either 2004 or 2005 (unclear) and was official head from 2008 to 2013; in a short intermezzo in 2008/09, he was replaced by Mawlawi Kabir, a Sarepul MP. Sayyed Azizullah Kargar has been acting leader since 2013.
(12) Jombesh’s Aina TV reported a 400-strong gathering of the party’s political committee, its secretariat and provincial leaders, did the election. Enayatullah Babur Farahmand, Dostum’s chief of staff, wrote on his Facebook account that the proposal to elect Bator Dostum had come from Kargar himself who – in old ‘communist’ fashion – had tendered his resignation “on grounds of health problems”, but promised to “stand by the side” of the new acting leader to carry out whichever post was designated to him.
Haji Bator Dostum, in contrast to his father, has a modern education. (According to different information he has either graduated in Turkey or the US.) Earlier this year, he travelled to the US in his father’s place (reportedly the US refused to give General Dostum a visa, still a decision of the Obama administration). A Jombesh spokesman said he held meetings with an adviser of president Donald Trump and a potential American ambassador to Afghanistan. (see media reports here and here).
(13) The Turkish president was already personally interested in Afghanistan during the anti-Soviet jihad in the 1980s. One photo recently re-published in Turkish newspapers (see, for example, here) showed him as a young man admiringly looking up to Hezb-e Islami leader, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, during an un-dated visit to Turkey; next to him is Tunisia’s Islamist leader, Rachid Ghannouchi. In those years, Erdogan was a leadership member and (from 1984 onwards) deputy leader of the (later banned) main Turkish Islamist party, the Refah Partisi (Welfare Party). Erdogan’s currently ruling AKP party emerged from a split in one of Refah’s Islamist successor parties.
(14) The first two Afghan-Turk schools were actually opened in 1995 and 1996 in Shebarghan and Mazar-e Sharif, which were then still under Dostum’s control, while the Taleban were advancing in the rest of the country. The Taleban closed those schools later. In total, six such schools with a total of 5,000 students were active in the country, in Kabul, Mazar-e Sharif, Herat, Kandahar, Jalalabad and Sherberghan. They were run by a Turkish non-governmental organisation, Afghan Turk CAG Educational NGO (ATCE), which Ankara sees as linked to the religious Gülen movement outlawed by Erdogan after the failed coup in July 2016. The Turkish government has asked for the schools to be transferred to a government-run educational and charitable foundation. Additionally, according to Tolo news, Kabul agreed to expel “some 150 pro-Gülen Turkish teachers” after the handover. Parents of the students have since then protested the move (see here), arguing that, since the schools had been established by private persons (including Afghans and Turks) and registered as private educational institutions, the government could not hand them over.
This article was last updated on 9 Mar 2020