LEADING NEWS SOURCE FOR TURKEY AND THE REGION

TURKEY tr-diplomacy

Turkey's religious Gülen community subject of latest WikiLeaks

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News | 3/17/2011 12:00:00 AM |

US diplomats’ comments on religious leader Fethullah Gülen and his international community are the subject of the first leaked documents released by WikiLeaks’ new Turkish partner, daily Taraf.

The perspective of the United States on religious leader Fethullah Gülen and his international community has evolved over the years amid lobbying efforts by the group to change its image, the latest leaked diplomatic cables have suggested.

Though U.S. officials perceived the community as adhering to a “moderate Islam” model, they expressed concerns in the cables, the first documents released by WikiLeaks’ new Turkish partner, about its perceived infiltration into the Turkish police and accusations of  “brainwashing of students” at the community’s schools around the world.

The confidential cables released by daily Taraf focus on U.S. diplomats investigating and analyzing the religious community and its actions, Gülen’s meeting with the pope in 1998 and his stay in the United States, according to reports in the Turkish media Thursday.

The newspaper was set to release the original cables on its website late Thursday as the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review went to press.

Gülen went to the United States on a tourist visa and applied in 1999 for a permanent resident card, or “green card,” which was denied. His lawyers took the matter to court and won the case, granting Gülen his card in 2008. A 2009 cable by former U.S. Ankara Ambassador James Jeffrey mentions that although Gülen’s status in the United States is provided by a court decision, some circles that dislike him incorrectly believe it to be the result of the U.S. government’s politics regarding Turkey.

A secret cable by Stuart Smith, U.S. deputy chief consul for Istanbul, mentions he was told by Chief Rabbi Ishak Haleva that a recommendation letter was demanded from the rabbi for Gülen by some people. Haleva told him the letter was to change the image “among some units of the U.S. government” that Gülen is “a radical Islamist who hides a secret and sinister agenda with his moderate message.” These people were mentioned by daily Taraf as members of the Turkey Journalists and Writers Association.

Haleva was hesitant to write such a letter, or even a more limited one just to describe Gülen’s relations with the Jewish community. It is also mentioned that the Armenian patriarch received a similar demand and was likewise hesitant. However, the Vatican representative in Istanbul fully supported Gülen, according to the same cable.

The FBI was also asked for a document of “clear status” for Gülen but did not give it because it might be used for a public-relations campaign, according to a cable featured by Taraf. One 2005 cable said the Gülen community seems to be a “moderate Islam” model that keeps its distance from violence and terrorism and is not anti-Semitic. However, it is also mentioned that since the Gülen community is running a global mission of Islamism, it remains to be seen whether it will remain positive or not. The “brainwashing of students” was mentioned during an evaluation of the community’s schools around the world.

The perception of Gülen changed, however, after U.S. diplomats looked further into the community and spoke to more people about its organization in Turkey, according to Taraf’s coverage. Later reports said Gülen is not a Khomeini who wants to transform Turkey into another Iran. The problem of the Gülen community is not with secularism itself but Turkey’s version of it, which wants to “control everything,” the cables state. “The Gülen community members do not want to bring down the secular order in Turkey dramatically, they are after a change from within,” one said.

The 2009 cable by Jeffery describes Gülen as a “political phenomena” in Turkey even he is “in exile” in Pennsylvania. It was also said the Gülen community is strong within the police force and in conflict with the military, which sees the group as an enemy.

“It is not possible to confirm the Turkish police are under the control of the Gülen community members, but we have not met anybody who denies it,” one cable said. The Gülen-controlled media is supporting the investigation into the alleged Ergenekon coup plot and has resulted in many opponents of the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, ending up behind bars, the cable stated.

Gülen met John Paul II in the Vatican in February 1998 upon an invitation from the pope. Taraf’s story said the two people who helped arrange the meeting were Üzeyir Garih, a Turkish businessman of Jewish origin, and Georges Marovitch, spokesman for the Clerics Board of Turkey Catholic Communities, both known as close friends of Gülen. Garih was stabbed to death in Istanbul’s Eyüp Cemetery in 2001 while Marovitch survived a murder attempt in Rome in 2007, when an unidentified assailant pushed him onto a train track. Both incidents left many questions unanswered, the Taraf story said.

[BOX] Cable says Turkish PM perceived as ‘liability’ by Gülen movement.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is a “liability,” members of the Fethullah Gülen community have said, according to a U.S. embassy cable recently released by WikiLeaks’ Turkish partner, daily Taraf.

According to the cable, President Abdullah Gül is perceived to be a member of the religious community “by almost everybody,” but Erdoğan is not. Many told U.S. diplomatic officials that Erdoğan had placed himself outside of the “Gülen front” in such a way that he is perceived as a “liability.”

People are hesitant to reveal their actual opinions because they are afraid what they say could hurt them later, according to the cable.

The cable also said the main opposition Republican People’s Party, or CHP, and other parties that oppose the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, were quick to accuse the United States of secretly supporting the Gülen movement so as to “weaken the secular foundations of Turkey in order to create a moderate Islamic State ‘model.’”

MOST POPULAR

MOST COMMENTED

    AcerProS.I.P.A HTML & CSS Agency