Bulgaria’s security, child protection agencies investigating ‘illegal’ Muslim schools

Bulgaria’s security, child protection agencies investigating ‘illegal’ Muslim schools

By Clive Leviev-Sawyer of the Sofia Globe

The State Agency for National Security and the office of the Chief Mufti, spiritual leader of Bulgaria’s Muslims, have started investigations following a media investigation into allegedly illegal Koranic boarding schools in the country.

This is according to a September 9 2014 report by Nova Televizia, which has spent months on an investigation, including the use of hidden cameras, into the schools that offer free-of-charge housing, food, clothing and Islamic education to children.

The report cited an example of a two-bedroom apartment in the eastern Bulgarian town of Aitos where minor children were living without their parents, with someone paying all the expenses. The teachers are imams and acting imams, the report said.

The State Agency for Child Protection and the Chief Mufti’s office found out about the boarding schools from Nova Televizia’s reporting.

The agency is investigating why the children are not living with their families, what they are studying and whether they attend secular schools.

The State Agency for National Security is also working on the case, the report said.

Another such boarding school was found in Isperih. The conditions were the same. The children sleep, eat and study there with no fee being paid.

Subsequently, the children can continue their studies in Turkey, according to Hamdi Nurula, deputy head of the municipal council in Isperih.

In the town, minor children from poor families live and study Islam, but not in an apartment but in a house a few metres from the police station and the municipal office.

The report alleged that Nurula was running the Islamic boarding school in the Razgrad village of Delchevo. The report said that by phone, Nurula initially claimed that in tDelchevo, there was no boarding school, but Nova said that its undercover investigation found that in mid-August he had been offering places at the boarding school.

The report quoted him as saying that before there had been 25 to 30 children, but then Boiko Borissov’s centre-right GERB party had come to power (in 2009) and had set the State Agency for Child Protection on him, which had fined him 6000 leva – about 3000 euro “because they did not want the children to learn”.

Kalin Kamenov was the official who issued the fine for the illegal hostel in Delchevo in 2012.

“It is very important to establish where the money comes from, I myself do not know,” Kamenov said.

Nova’s team presented themselves to Nurula officially. He denied having anything to do with the boarding schools and told the reporters that they should speak to the Mufti of Razgrad, who in turn said he knew nothing about it.

The Chief Mufti’s office said that it needed time to check up on the property and establish whether it was theirs, whether Koran courses were being conducted and whether this was being done legally.