Turkey Targets Gulen-Inspired Projects Around the World

A Turkish school in Mali.(Photo: Sunday's Zaman, Mehmet Yaman)
A Turkish school in Mali.(Photo: Sunday's Zaman, Mehmet Yaman)


Date posted: August 29, 2016

In past years, big names in South Africa picked up the annual Gulen Peace Award, a local accolade inspired by a Turkish preacher who has been blamed by Turkey for an attempted coup last month.

Both Nobel laureate Desmond Tutu and Graca Machel, an activist and widow of Nelson Mandela, have been feted in the name of Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who has won international recognition for promoting dialogue and education. But this year’s award ceremony is in doubt as Turkey campaigns globally to shut schools and other institutes linked to Gulen, who once enjoyed support from the Turkish government that now calls him a terrorist.

“We haven’t decided yet whether there will be an event or not,” said Ayhan Cetin, director of the Turquoise Harmony Institute, a Gulen-inspired group based in Johannesburg. South Africa’s government has not moved against Gulen supporters, but it could be awkward for someone to accept the award because of the international tension, he said.

At home, Turkey has detained more than 40,000 people in a bid to dismantle the network of Gulen, drawing criticism that the purge could sweep up anyone critical of the government.

Turkey’s international campaign against Gulen, who denies any involvement in the July 15 uprising, targets schools and other institutions in more than 100 countries, including in Asia, Africa, Europe and the United States.

The Turkish bid is complicated by questions of national sovereignty and whether there is evidence of links between far-flung projects — many with no formal ties to Gulen’s headquarters in the U.S. — and the coup attempt against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Gulen’s global influence could depend partly on whether the United States extradites him at the request of Turkey, which is frustrated by U.S. statements that it must present evidence and follow the legal process, a commentator said.

“As long as they kind of enjoy some sort of American cover, I think they will be able to continue,” said Halil Karaveli, a senior fellow at the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute and the Silk Road Studies Program.

Turkey accuses Gulen, who is associated with Islamic mysticism, or Sufism, of clandestinely grooming school recruits to eventually take over the state. Prime Minister Binali Yildirim has told ambassadors that their countries should move against schools or associations tied to Gulen’s movement, known as Hizmet, or “Service” in Turkish.

“Here’s some friendly advice: If you are late in taking action against them, this threat will no longer be a Turkish threat, it could become your countries’ greatest threat,” Yildirim said.

Somalia, a war-torn beneficiary of Turkish aid, closed educational and medical facilities linked to Gulen, though Turkey said they would operate again under different management. Azerbaijan seized a university connected with Gulen, while the Kurdish regional government in northern Iraq said Gulen-affiliated schools will be transferred to new ownership, Turkey’s Anadolu Agency reported.

The reaction in some other countries, such as Germany and Kenya, is more skeptical or cautious. In places with limited resources, the schools have won praise for producing local graduates with good results. “It shouldn’t be an arbitrary decision to close any school, just based on somebody’s political wish,” said Jeton Mehmeti, an education analyst in Kosovo.

Gulen, whose Islamic movement first expanded outside Turkey in the early 1990s after the fall of the Soviet Union, has come under international scrutiny in the past. Russia closed schools connected with the cleric years ago amid concerns there about Islamic militancy.

There are about 150 taxpayer-funded charter schools believed to be linked to Gulen in the United States, and Turkey has retained a U.S. legal firm, Amsterdam & Partners, to file complaints against them. The FBI has investigated allegations of employment discrimination, competitive bidding abuses and visa fraud at some of the schools, with few repercussions so far.

In South Africa, nine schools inspired by Gulen’s teachings follow a mostly secular curriculum that emphasizes math and science, and offer scholarships to disadvantaged children. Of their 3,500 students, 95 percent are South African, said Cetin of the Turquoise Harmony Institute.

Tensions over the coup attempt deepened a rift among Turks in South Africa, where the Turkish ambassador, Kaan Esener, described operators of Gulen-inspired schools as a “crime syndicate” in a radio interview. Some Erdogan supporters also criticized the Nizamiye mosque north of Johannesburg, a soaring structure built with the funds of a Gulen backer.

Cetin speculated that Turkey would pressure Gulen’s expatriate supporters by rounding up relatives and friends at home in a widening crackdown.

“The circle will be bigger and bigger,” he said.

*Editor’s note: Hizmet Movement Blog reaffirms its non-endorsement policy of the various viewpoints expressed throughout the articles that are solely shared for the convenience of the readers.

Source: The News York Times , August 24, 2016


Related News

Turkey’s Judicial Purge Threatens the Rule of Law

But nothing in those proposed laws came close to undercutting Turkey’s justice system like the judicial purge does. If they want to be consistent, European leaders should insist on the reinstatement of the fired judges, or at least case-by-case adjudication of their alleged wrongdoing. The U.S. should make similar demands on its NATO ally. The future of the rule of law in Turkey lies in the balance.

Once, it was democracy that brought Erdogan and Gülen together

It’s not a war between Erdoğan and [the] Gülen movement. It is a question of whether or not Turkey will be a real democracy.

US court gives Gülen 21 days to present his defense

The extradition of U.S.-based Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen was “unofficially” demanded in a civil suit filed last week by lawyers hired by the Turkish government, while a judge who accepted the appeal has given Gülen 21 days to respond to accusations filed against him.

Erdoğan’s Crackdown Takes A Toll On Exchange Students In Turkey

Turkey’s relentless crackdown on government critics and opponents has caught up with foreign exchange students, disrupting their years of studies and even landing some in unlawful detentions in Turkish jails.

The Hizmet movement, politics and the AKP

Hizmet cannot establish a political party because politics all over the world are mostly based on contention, challenge, belittling opponents and division. Forming a political party would harm the Hizmet movement but similar to Rumi’s compass, it endeavors to establish critically constructive contact with every single human being on the planet. Its main mission is to build bridges across cultures, communities, religions and so on.

Pro-Erdoğan journalist: Gülen followers should be kept in detention camps, given food tickets

Cemil Barlas, a staunch supporter of Tayyip Erdoğan and commentator for the pro-government A Haber TV, said during a program that followers of the Gülen movement, which the government accuses of being behind a failed coup on July 15, must be kept in detention camps and should be given food tickets.

Latest News

This notable Pocono resident has been living here in exile since 1999

Logistics companies seized over Gülen links sold in fast-track auction

That is Why the Turkish Government could Pay 1 Billion Euros

ECtHR rules Bulgaria violated rights of Turkish journalist who was deported despite seeking asylum

Fethullah Gülen’s Message of Condolences in the Wake of the Western European Floods

Pregnant woman kept in prison for 4 months over Gülen links despite regulations

Normalization of Abduction, Torture, and Death in Erdogan’s Turkey

Turkey’s Maarif Foundation illegally seized German-run school in Ethiopia, says manager

Failed 2016 coup was gov’t plot to purge Gülenists from state bodies, journalist claims

In Case You Missed It

Guest post: Turkey and the problem of political continuity

Hizmet movement has no political ambitions

Minister thankful to Fethullah Gulen for backing the peace process

Why should education in Pakistan be held hostage to the politics of other countries, however brotherly?

CHP applies to Constitutional Court for annulment of dershane law

Turkish gov’t pays cash rewards for arrest or death of Gülen supporters

Nine decades later, Hizmet gives back to Karachi

Copyright 2021 Hizmet News