Recently, Gulen said that the US will never yield to the Turkish demands and will never hand him over to the Turkish authorities, pouring cold water on the Ankara optimism about succeeding in bringing the dissenter back to the country for trial. Now the Turkish government appears backed down on its previous anti-Gulen stance, and will approve of him at least being put under house arrest in the US. Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmuls publicized the stance shift after a cabinet meeting at a press conference.
“If you are saying it is a judicial process, then you should arrest the man, where he is, and if you are not extraditing him to us, at least limit his activities by bringing him under house arrest”, Kurtulmuls was quoted by Hurriyet Daily News as saying.
Fethullah Gulen, a cleric from Turkey’s Izmir, leads the Hizmet Movement which has supporters across the country. Following death of Said Nursi, one of the leading Islamic world theologians and religious theorists in 1960, Fethollah Gulen came to prominence and managed to attract loyalists across the country, including in the government’s body. He is now a key Islamic theorist of Turkey, presenting a particular interpretation of Islam, something won him supporters from all walks of life in the Turkish society and abroad.
Some reports put the number of his fans at 5 million. He gained his fame from his sermons during which he broke in tears and so drew the attendees’ sympathy and enthusiasm.
The Gulenist movement principles are not against capitalism. The Turkish Islamists oppose their country’s secularism but are for the American version of it as they argue that the American model guarantees religious freedom for citizens with different religions. The Gulenists describe their movement as moderate and Islamist simultaneously with faith in liberal democracy and an inclination to promote inter-faith tolerance and dialogue.
But his opponents argue that he and his orbit perfectly know the way of exploiting people and even governments for their own goals. Gulen in the 1980s exhibited himself as an enthusiastic anti-communist and won trust and support of the Americans.
Dr. Necip Hablemitoglu, a former professor at the Ankara University, in a 2001 article titled The Operation Agents, Spies Penetration, and Gulenists claimed that Fethullah Gulen is an agent of US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The article further alleged that the preacher voluntarily joined the CIA and was being guarded in a Pennsylvania house provided to him by the American spy agency. Hablemitoglu was assassinated in 2002 in front of his home. His assassins’ identity or the assassination motivation have not been disclosed to date. Anti-Gulenists blamed the preacher as having direct hand in murdering the university professor.
Osman Nuri Gundes, a former official at the Turkish National Intelligence Organization, in his diaries labelled Gulenist organization as a cover for CIA activities in Turkey since the 1990s. Gundes claimed that at that time, about 130 CIA agents blended in with students at Gulenist schools in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan.
There is a notion that the US holds relations with the Gulenist movement, though covertly. Washington utilizes the Gulenists to curb influence of the Iranian-promoted Shiite Islam model of political system in Central Asia. The American efforts focus on promotion of the Turkish-promoted Sunni Islam model that is in accordance with the US-cultivated capitalism.
No evidences proof any Gulen’s CIA links, but his opponents argue that if he has no contacts with the US spy agency, he has no justification to keep his heads and organization shrouded in secrecy.
In 1999, a video tape was published, featuring Fethullah Gulen while advising his supports to penetrate the Turkish power structures.
“You have to penetrate the system’s veins without letting anybody know until you seize the whole power,” he said, adding: “you have to continue until full seizure of government, until you make sure that all of constitutional institutions back you.”
WikiLeaks cables also made revelations on the Gulen’s major clout in the nation’s political and social structures. James Jeffrey, the former US ambassador to Turkey, in 2009 in a coded report maintained that the Gulenists movement had fully seized the Turkish government. The document claimed that even the country’s police were overtaken by the Gulenists. The report added that the police force had nearly 200,000 pro-Gulen officers ready to provide any sort of protection to the movement.
Due to its deep running into the Turkish power mechanism, the Gulenist movement can be taken advantage of as a trump card at any time against Ankara by the US. This is perhaps the adequate reason why the US has so far steered clear of the dissenter extradition. The Americans are well aware that acceding to Ankara demands and so handing him over to the Turkish authorities will strip Washington of prospective pressure potentials.
Insisting on Gulen handover turned to be a matter of prestige for the Turkish leaders. However, on the opposite side, any US move to return the preacher to Turkey will be interpreted as the superpower’s succumbing to Turkey that at best is a regional power.
This view gives the Americans enough justification to certainly and forever turn down the Turkish extradition calls. Turkey is expected to come to terms with its failure to persuade the US, and withdraw its demand with respect to their common interests and strategic relations in the region and the world. Remarks by the Turkish officials in relation to Gulen recently heralded that demands withdrawal.