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What to Know About the Gulen Movement

  • VOA News

FILE - A demonstrator hold pictures of Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen (R), during a protest in Istanbul Dec. 30, 2013.

FILE - A demonstrator hold pictures of Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen (R), during a protest in Istanbul Dec. 30, 2013.

Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who has been accused of being behind Turkey's apparent coup, has lived in self-imposed exile in the United States for more than a decade.

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who conducted an interview through FaceTime with CNN Turk Friday, said Turkey "cannot be run from Pennsylvania," a reference to Gulen who lives in the U.S. mid-Atlantic state.

FILE - Turkish Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen

FILE - Turkish Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen

In May, the president designated the religious movement of Gulen a terrorist group and said he would pursue its members, whom he accuses of trying to overthrow the government.

In recent years, Turkey's government has taken over companies that are believed to have ties to Gulen, detained hundreds of followers, and removed thousands of Gulen's supporters from government jobs.

Turkey's government accuses the Gulen movement of infiltrating the police, judiciary and political system and creating a state within a state.

Gulen response

In response to the upheaval in Turkey, a nonprofit group serving as a voice for the Gulen movement rebuked the violence.

“We have consistently denounced military interventions in domestic politics,” the Alliance for Shared Values said in a statement. “We condemn any military intervention in domestic politics of Turkey.”

Previous close ties

The Gulen movement was once among Erdogan's most enthusiastic supporters and Gulen-affiliated media groups backed government policies.

But Gulen, 75, fell out of favor with the president when police and prosecutors seen as sympathetic to Gulen opened a corruption investigation into Erdogan's inner circle in 2013.

Gulen, who sought refuge in the United States and lives in relative seclusion, has continued to maintain a following within Turkey and his supporters are believed to have raised some 50 million liras ($17 million) between 2004 and 2015.

He preaches Sunni Islam together with a message of interfaith dialogue and his movement, known as "Hizmit" (Service), operates in Europe, the United States, Asia and Africa.

Gulen's followers say they are the victims of an unfair crackdown, and have accused Erdogan of taking increasingly authoritarian measures.

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