A Visit with Fethullah Gülen

… Erdogan’s Chief Adversary and Public Enemy No. 1 – Publisched on Spiegel Online International, by Veit Medick and Roland Nelles, with additional reporting by Christoph Sydow, July 18, 2016.

In a meeting at his compound in Pennsylvania, Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen defends himself against claims made by Turkey’s president that he was behind this weekend’s failed coup. He alleges that power has poisoned Erdogan.  

Fethullah Gülen is sitting in a small reception room in his home. There’s a small side table next to him, a blue fan and a glass of water. He wears a dark blazer and leather slippers. The elderly man has something he wants to say.

“I am prepared to be screened by an international commission,” he says. “If they find that I am guilty, then I will go to the execution chamber. But that won’t happen because I haven’t done anything.”

Gülen has been the focus of a considerable amount of international attention in recent days, with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan having accused him and his influential Islamic movement of engineering the failed weekend military putsch in Turkey from his home in the United States. The preacher has been living in American exile since 1999 because of his many enemies in Turkey: His organization, called Hizmet, operates a global network of schools, firms and media companies — and is treated like a terrorist organization by Erdogan’s people. Gülen’s guarded complex, located near the small town of Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania, around 100 miles from New York, is considered by officials in Ankara to be the headquarters of its greatest enemy.

Erdogan’s accusations are serious, and Gülen wants to defend both himself and his movement. He says he had nothing to do with the putsch and that Erdogan’s behavior borders on insanity. “I have already said several times that I am against any form of violence when it comes to achieving political goals,” he says. Gülen also claims that he supports democracy in Turkey. “I reject military putsches,” he says.

A Rare Visit: … //

… A Friendship Turned Sour: … //
… Parting Ways: … //
… In Gülen’s Bedroom: … //

… Why Is He So Sealed Off?

Gülen has been described as extremely introverted, but it’s difficult to imagine that being the case. How, after all, could someone so reserved build up such a major and influential movement? Followers of his movement are in important positions at all levels of the state — in the judiciary, the military and in the political sphere. When Erdogan flexes his muscles inside the government apparatus, as he is currently doing, parts of Gülen’s network are also affected.

But this quiet and modest-seeming gentleman also has a firm grasp on the political game back in his home country. Gülen insinuates it may have been Erdogan himself who staged the putsch in order to strengthen his power and he notes that the president spoke of a golden opportunity to conduct a purge. But Gülen says he was also surprised by the unusual course taken by the putsch. After all, he said, the rebels failed to eliminate the political leadership right at the beginning. In effect, he is spinning his own conspiracy theory to counter Erdogan’s. But he has no proof.

Intrigues, Propaganda and Power Struggles:

In this conflict, it is difficult to tell those telling lies from those telling the truth, or even just the half-truth. Turkish domestic politics long ago became filled with intrigue, propaganda and power struggles. But a visit with Gülen doesn’t leave you with the impression that he is some sort of terror mastermind or putschist. Still, it is impossible to be certain. In such appearances, it is difficult to tell what is real and what is staged.

So what happens next? Erdogan is demanding that the United States extradite Gülen, but he hasn’t yet filed an official request and Gülen doesn’t believe he will be extradited. Erdogan, he says, has no evidence to show the Americans. “The US justice system works. The Americans won’t turn me over if there isn’t a tangible reason.”

His praise is more than idle. With permanent resident status, he says he likes America a lot and feels at home here. Indeed, he has even taken up an interest in American politics.

“Hillary Clinton is a good woman,” he says. “She is a figure of hope for this country.”

(full text).


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… and this:

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