Cleric Accused Of Plotting Turkish Coup Attempt: ‘I Have Stood Against All Coups’

Fethullah Gulen sits in a room at his compound in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania. He has lived in exile in the United States since the late 1990s. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan blames Gulen for last year's failed coup and is seeking his extradition.
Bryan Thomas for NPR
Fethullah Gulen sits in a room at his compound in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania. He has lived in exile in the United States since the late 1990s. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan blames Gulen for last year's failed coup and is seeking his extradition. Bryan Thomas for NPR


Date posted: July 11, 2017

Robert Siegel

On July 15 last year, in an attempted coup, a faction of the Turkish military bombed government buildings, blocked roads and bridges and attempted to overthrow President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The coup attempt was quelled by the next day — but Turkey has been feeling the repercussions ever since.

The government has engaged in sweeping purges, arresting tens of thousands and firing more than 100,000 people from their jobs, including civil servants, university professors and soldiers.

But the primary target of Erdogan’s wrath is Fethullah Gulen, an Islamic scholar in his late 70s living in exile in the United States. Erdogan blames Gulen for masterminding the failed coup attempt. The government has declared Gulen’s movement a terrorist organization.

Gulen, who is said to have millions of supporters in Turkey, has steadfastly denied any responsibility for the coup — but Turkey is demanding his extradition from the U.S., where he has lived since the late 1990s.

“To this day, I have stood against all coups,” Gulen told NPR’s Robert Siegel, who traveled Monday to the cleric’s compound in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania, in the Pocono Mountains. “My respect for the military aside, I have always been against interventions. …If any one among those soldiers had called me and told me of their plan, I would tell them, ‘You are committing murder.’ ”

Gulen, who rarely speaks with the press, expressed concern for Turkey’s future, but has “some hope,” he said.

“If they ask me what my final wish is,” he added, “I would say the person who caused all this suffering and oppressed thousands of innocents, I want to spit in his face.”

NPR has sought comment from the Turkish embassy, which declined to issue a written response to Gulen’s remarks.


Interview Highlights

On Erdogan’s claim that he orchestrated last year’s failed coup attempt

To this day, I have stood against all coups. I suffered during the military intervention of May 27, 1960, and then again on March 12, 1971 and again on September 12, 1980, and I was targeted February 28, 1997. My respect for the military aside, I have always been against interventions. I don’t know the people who attempted the July 15 coup. They might know me, they may have attended some lectures — I have no idea. Thousands of people have come here to the retreat to visit, among them 50 members of parliament, former President Abdullah Gul, former Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. …For this reason, many people might know me, but I don’t know them. …

One other thing is I live here, thousands of miles away from Turkey. Some soldiers decided to do the coup, and despite the many questions and suspicions that remain of the government account of what transpired that night, if such claims are still taken to be credible, I shudder in astonishment. But if I were to humor that idea, if any one among those soldiers had called me and told me of their plan, I would tell them, “You are committing murder.”

On Turkey’s extradition request

I think the United States is mindful of its reputation for its democracy and rule of law, and if they are willing to risk that reputation by extraditing me based on the request and claims made by Turkey, I would never say no. I would go willingly.

I am living my final years, even if they decide to kill me or poison me or bring back the death sentence to hang me. When I was a young imam back in the day, I was present at the execution of two men, and I asked them about their final wish. If they ask me what my final wish is, I would say the person who caused all this suffering and oppressed thousands of innocents, I want to spit in his face.

On allegations that his organization is secretive

The perception that I control all of this… that I tell people to do things and that they are doing them… there is no such thing. As I have said to one lawmaker, if there is any suspicion of secrecy, they should conduct deep investigations and expose it. I am not clear on what it is that is so secret, but they should send their law enforcement and intelligence services to uncover it. I firmly support that.

On why his organization is based in the Pocono Mountains in rural Pennsylvania

Before I moved here, I always lived in Turkey and was subject to many difficult situations and targeted in the numerous military coups that happened over the years. … I never really wanted to leave Turkey, but I had some heart problems and a cardiologist at the Mayo Clinic insisted that I come here and get treatment. So I traveled here and while I was in the hospital, a prosecutor in Turkey opened a case against me, so I was advised to remain here until things calmed down, but they never quite did.

I don’t want to be perceived as pretentious to Americans for speaking to an American outlet and for what I’m about to say, but I have always carried an admiration for the United States for its democracy and its leadership of the world. I had freedom here and for that, I decided to stay here. And a few years later, I received my permanent residency, and as such I am still here and I think it was a wise decision.

I haven’t ventured out of the retreat much, only to come and go to the hospital, as I prefer tranquility.

On what he foresees for his movement’s future

[Erdogan] thinks that if he can eliminate me, everyone else in this movement will dissolve. … Erdogan thinks if he gets rid of me, he thinks ending me will end the movement. He couldn’t be more wrong. We are mortals, we will die one day. But this is a movement of love and dedication to humanity and God willing, the people who use their rationality and free will shall continue doing their great work.

On his hopes for Turkey’s future

I am neither a sociologist nor a psychologist, but you don’t have to be one to see that Turkey is in a vortex of problems, isolated from the world. Diplomacy has been replaced by profits and benefits. …

The whole world has borne witness to this. From this perspective, I don’t see a bright future for Turkey. It pains me, but I have some hope, I pray for it to be better. It is a blessed country, a NATO member, and was an E.U. candidate. These were things we wanted — to see progress in the democracy, to see respect for diversity of thought. …

Turkey is a diverse country …I think that democracy is the ideal system for a country with a social foundation such as this. My view is based on my belief that everyone should be able to comfortably live what they believe, and this is only possible in a truly democratic environment. I am insistent in my views and I strongly believe in what I say.

In addition, I have previously expressed to others that the Turkish constitution should be modeled on the American constitution. America is a non-homogenous society of more than 300 million governed under such a constitution. It would be very effective for Turkey.

Source: NPR , July 11, 2017


Related News

Public ad budget unfairly allocated to pro-gov’t media

Separate sources have suggested that several public institutions prefer pro-government dailies and TV stations over other media, an initiative that follows Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s statements about “the opposition that cooperates with an international conspiracy seeking to topple the government.”

Amir Hussain on Fethullah Gulen and Hizmet Movement

Dr. Amir Hussain is a professor of Theological Studies at Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles. He has written numerous scholarly articles, and his area of research is on the study of Islam, specifically contemporary Muslim societies in North America.

668 Babies to welcome Eid Al-Adha in Turkish prisons

Six hundred sixty-eight children under the age of 6 will welcome the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha on Friday in jails across Turkey where they are staying with their mothers. There are 149 infants younger than 12 months in prisons.

5 million people expected to attend 11th Int’l Turkish Olympiads

İSA YAZAR Five million people are expected to watch the wide range of shows to be performed in 55 Turkish cities as part of the 11th International Turkish Olympiads, a festival that celebrates the Turkish language and is this year brings together 2,000 students from 140 countries. The 11th International Turkish Olympiads, which is organized […]

The work of peace

Mr. Tozan is originally from Turkey; the Peace Islands Institute likewise has Turkish roots. He said that there are about half a million Muslims of Turkish descent in the United States, two thirds of them in the New York metropolitan area.

Pathology of ‘Islamicist’ Erdogan Regime

In his hatred to the Gulen movement and to wipe out this movement, one of the most progressive educational Islamic movements that Muslim world has witnessed, the Erdogan regime has reached out to all kinds of political Islamicists throughout the Muslim world.

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

Gülen: Society not divided into Kemalists, Muslims in Turkey

Too Good to Be True

Intellectuals from West, East agree Gülen movement works for a better world

Ex-FM Yakış defends Turkish schools as the torch bearer of Ottoman vision

Islamic lender raises capital after massive gov’t withdrawal

Fethullah Gulen in 2 minutes

Pineapple republic!

Copyright 2021 Hizmet News