July 16, 2016

From NH, failed coup in Turkey raising suspicions

A local Turkish-American organization is condemning Friday’s failed military coup in Turkey — and raising questions about who was really behind it.

In an email Saturday, Yusuf Demir, vice chair of the board at the Turkish Cultural Center of New Hampshire, told the New Hampshire Sunday News, “As Turkish Cultural Center board members, we have advocated for, and demonstrated our commitment to, peace and democracy. We have consistently denounced military interventions in domestic politics.

“These are our core values as Hizmet movement participants,” he said (“Hizmet” means “service” in Turkish). “We condemn any military intervention in domestic politics of Turkey.”

Demir said it’s too early to know for certain who was behind the military coup that failed. But he said he has worked on documentary projects about previous military coups and said, “It is obvious that this is not an ordinary attempt.”

“In Turkish history we have seen many attempts but never like this before,” he wrote. “With a couple of jets, tanks and a few generals... The group was small and it seemed to me they were committing suicide as they knew they couldn’t succeed.”

Demir said there have been ominous developments in the wake of the failed coup. “As a result of yesterday’s attempt, the government continues to oppress the others who are the critics or from the other views,” he said.

The man that Turkey’s leaders have blamed for the failed coup attempt by a group of army officers is an Islamic scholar named Fethullah Gulen, who lives in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania. Gulen has inspired a worldwide “Hizmet” movement, including a network of more than 160 charter schools in the United States.

Turkish media reported Saturday that 2,745 judges had been removed based on suspicions they have links to the Gulen movement.

Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has claimed that the coup attempt on Friday was the work of army officers who are followers of Gulen, who had once been an ally but whose movement has become critical of the increasingly authoritarian regime.

Gulen himself issued the following statement on Friday after the failed coup: “I condemn, in the strongest terms, the attempted military coup in Turkey. Government should be won through a process of free and fair elections, not force.

“I pray to God for Turkey, for Turkish citizens, and for all those currently in Turkey that this situation is resolved peacefully and quickly.

“As someone who suffered under multiple military coups during the past five decades, it is especially insulting to be accused of having any link to such an attempt,” Gulen said. “I categorically deny such accusations.”

Secretary of State John Kerry on Saturday was quoted as saying the United States would support investigations to determine who instigated the attempted coup and where its support originates. He said he anticipates questions will be raised about Gulen.

Although Gulen lives on a secluded compound in Pennsylvania, he has maintained influence in Turkey through followers in the judiciary and police.

His followers have also opened many private schools around the globe, including science, math and technology-focused public charter schools with different names in numerous states around this country.

The movement has also inspired the creation of Turkish Cultural Centers, nonprofit organizations that promote cultural trips, language and cooking classes, conferences and other community events.

When the TCC opened in downtown Manchester in 2013, political leaders including Gov. Maggie Hassan, State Sen. Lou D’Allesandro, D-Manchester, and State Rep. Lenette Peterson, R-Merrimack, in attendance. At the time, leaders said there were nearly 5,000 Turkish-Americans living in New Hampshire.

The organization hosts an annual Turkish Cultural Day at the State House for lawmakers. The TCC also has sponsored trade missions to Turkey; a 2014 trip was planned just as the relationship between Erdogan and Gulen was deteriorating.

Asked what the connection is between the Gulen, or Hizmet, movement and the TCC, Demir said, “While there is no formal relationship with Fethullah Gulen, a large number of our members are indeed supportive of Fethullah Gulen’s democratic principles.”

How did Gulen end up in Pennsylvania?

He first applied for a special visa to come into the United States more than 10 years ago, but the Department of Homeland Security denied it. A lawsuit challenging that decision was filed in 2007 in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia, saying that Gulen was “head of the Gulen Movement,” and an important educational figure who had “overseen” the creation of a network of schools in the United States as well as in other countries, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

*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.

Published on New Hampshire Union Leader, 16 July 2016, Saturday