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Gulenists speak out at last

A group of young academics who have been in or close to the Gulen community are speaking out publicly, daring to question others' blind allegiance to their imam.
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To many outside observers struggling to make sense of Turkey, the most puzzling actors in the political scene are the Gulenists: the followers of cleric Fethullah Gulen, who has been living in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania since 1999. The group defines itself as a service movement dedicated to innocent goals such as education, charity and interfaith dialogue. In a bewildering contrast, however, the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan defines the whole group as a “terrorist” network, calling it the “Fethullah Gulen Terror Organization” or “FETO.” It also claims that the group is behind almost every single trouble Turkey has faced in the past five years, from the failed coup in July 2016 and the murder of the Russian ambassador to Turkey to terrorism by the Kurdistan Workers Party and even the Islamic State.

Of course there is also a third view in Turkey, one critical of both the Erdogan government and the Gulenists. This view defines them as two Islamist powers that first used their alliance to capture the state from secularists, and then fell into a Machiavellian power struggle among themselves. Gulenists in this view are not the innocent victims they pretend to be, but neither are they a cosmic evil that explains away every misdeed by the government.

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