Turkey Asks Again For US To Extradite Fethullah Gulen
On July 15, a rogue faction of the Turkish armed forces launched an ultimately unsuccessful attempted coup d’état on the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The attempted coup rocked the country with fighting in the streets between the coup plotters and government supporters. Hundreds were killed and thousands were wounded, while many of the casualties were civilians caught in the crossfire.
After prevailing, President Erdogan ordered a massive purge of numerous institutions within Turkey. The purge targeted thousands of government officials, including judges, academics, journalists, healthcare providers, and trade unionists. The purge is still on-going and is estimated to include over 60,000 people at this point.
The group that launched the coup called themselves the Peace at Home Council, which is reportedly a reference to a famous saying by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, “Peace at home, peace in the world.” The Kemalist secular military in Turkey has historically conducted coups to prevent theocracy or other perceived threats to the order brought into Turkey under Ataturk. Given Erdogan’s increasing Islamification of Turkish politics, a coup is not so surprising.
But for his part, President Erdogan is not just blaming a rogue faction of the Turkish armed forces for the coup attempt. He is pointing his finger at, of all places, Pennsylvania, where a cleric named Muhammad Fethullah Gulen has been residing since 1999.
Turkey has formally requested extradition of Gulen to Turkey where an arrest warrant was issued earlier this month. The charge? Ordering the July 15 coup.
According to the Erdogan government, Gulen sits atop an “international terrorist movement” that uses schools and charities as a front. Many of those associated with Gulen’s network of charities and schools have been targeted in the post-coup purge. Erdogan has accused Gulen of leading a “parallel structure” with vast influence within the government, including the military, police, and judicial branch.
Gulen denies the charges and, despite President Erdogan’s personal appeal to President Obama, the US has so far refused to extradite unless the Turkish government presents evidence implicating Gulen in the July 15 coup attempt. This refusal has led to numerous accusations, mostly conspiratorial, that Gulen has a special relationship with US intelligence services.
What can be said with considerable evidence is that the Gulen movement is both global and secretive. Estimated to exist in over 100 countries and powered by members donating portions of their income, the movement uses schools and charities to push its vision of an Islamic society. Its interior operations and financial structure remain opaque and Gulen has been recorded making statements easily interpreted as subversive.
During a sermon in 2000, Gulen told his followers that unlike other Islamists trying to undermine secularism in Turkey, his followers should “move within the arteries of the system, without anyone noticing your existence.”
Gulen is not a US citizen, but did receive a green card in 2001. He claimed to have come to the United States in 1999 for health reasons, though he was being investigated by the previous Turkish government at the time. Given how valuable Turkey, a NATO member country, is to US interests in the Middle East and how much of a priority President Erdogan is making this extradition, one is forced to wonder if Gulen will be staying in Pennslyvania for long.