Sonoran Science Academy: Denials and Evidence
On April 26, 2010, the website of the Arizona Daily Star, a newspaper in Tucson, Arizona, published the responses of Superintendent Ozkur Yildiz of Daisy Education Corporation (DEC), the charter holder of the chain of Sonoran Science Academy schools, to journalist Tim Steller's questions.
Journalist Tim Steller:
"What inspiration, guidance or other motivation has been taken from Fethullah Gülen, or his broader movement in the establishment or operation of Sonoran Science Academy and Daisy Education Corp.?"
School Superintendent Ozkur Yildiz:
“We would like to stress and underline the fact that the establishment of Daisy Education Corp. was not, and is not, linked to any movement that can possibly have any substantive influence on school’s mission, vision, and operations….DEC is an educational institution. It is not attached to any ideology or a movement.”
The Tucson Weekly, an Arizona newspaper, published an article entitled "Hidden Agenda" on December 31, 2009, in which Sonoran Science Academy middle school principal Fatih Karatas was quoted as stating, in response to allegations that the school was affiliated with the Gülen Movement:
"We don't have any kind of connections or any kind of relations with that movement or group. A public school can not be affiliated in any way with other institutions or groups because of the regulations, because of the charters."
The following statements from Ufuk Coskun, a doctoral candidate in the anthropology department of the University of Arizona, are extracted from his Master's thesis as well as a paper published in 2010 as part of the Proceedings of the 10th Annual Graduate Conference in Middle Eastern Studies:
"The pious Turks are mostly recent migrants from Turkey and are part of an Islamic piety movement in Turkey. It is often referred as the Gülen or Nur movement whose leader is Fettullah Gülen, a Turkish preacher, imam and scholar currently residing in the U.S. The Gülen movement promotes tolerance, dialogue, education, reform, science and Islam, and asserts that these are all compatible with each other. The movement has hundreds of schools in more than a hundred countries. One of their schools in Arizona was chosen as the 103rd best high school in the U.S." (source cited: Newsweek)
"The group in Tucson has recently come to the U.S. through higher education and/or business channels. Many pious Turks in Tucson are either university graduates or students. Core members in Arizona are organized around an education institute that has K-8, K-10 and K-12 level schools in Tucson and Phoenix without any specific statement regarding Turkish culture or Islam. Turkish is offered as a second language in addition to Spanish."
"Gülen’s adherents are provincial middle class Turks from Turkey and have recently come to the U.S. through higher education and/or business channels. Many pious Turks in Tucson are either university graduates or students. Core members in Arizona seems to be organized around Daisy Education Corporation that has K-8, K-10 and K-12 level schools in Tucson and Phoenix without any specific statement regarding Turkish culture or Islam. Turkish is offered as a second language besides Spanish at the school."
(1) Daisy Education Corporation is the charter holder of the Sonoran Science Academy chain of schools.
(2) The statement "One of their schools in Arizona was chosen as the 103rd best high school in the U.S." with the accompanying reference to Newsweek is clearly a reference to Sonoran Science Academy. As noted by Superintendent Yildiz in his response to the journalist:
"In other recent honors and recognition, Newsweek’s “America’s Best High Schools- 2009” lists Sonoran Science Academy-Tucson (SSA-Tucson) as 103rd out of 27,000 schools ranked."
(3) It may be of interest to compare Coskun's statement above regarding what the Gulen Movement promotes with the assessments of the STRATFOR think tank and some scholars and journalists, as well as Coskun's own view of the Gulenists' goals in Turkey; see this page.
Ufuk Coskun's Publications:
The Ahıska Turks and Pious Turks in Tucson: Different Practices of the Same Religion. Zaytoon (2010), 1:36-48 Proceedings of The 10th Annual Graduate Conference in Middle Eastern Studies
Ahıska/Meskhetian Turks In Tucson: An Examination of Ethnic Identity. Unpublished Master’s Thesis, The University of Arizona. (2009)