Category Archives: Headlines

Brides of ISIS

Roundtable Discussion on

Brides of ISIS: The Internet Seduction of Western Females into ISIS

with Dr. Anne Speckhard, Director of the International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism

Thursday, 16 March 2017


The so-called Islamic State and self proclaimed Caliphate has indeed managed to seduce thousands of young men and women from Europe, the U.S., Canada and other Western countries into its ranks.  Of these, it is believed that roughly ten percent are female.  And they are increasingly lured into ISIS, not only by men urging them to join and even proposing marriage, but also by their female cadres who call to them over social media and instant messaging.  The percentage of French females joining ISIS is believed to be one of the highest in the West—at almost twenty percent.

Once inside the terrorist ranks ISIS women, we are told by those who blog from its inner circles, are expected to marry. Indeed ISIS is in the business of state building and the mujahideen—or “holy” warriors—need wives, if not sex. That is when they are not busied with raping their Yazidi sex slaves—something the escaped Yazidis claim their ISIS “lords” see as a spiritual duty for which they pray before and after assaulting them. This abuse of females apparently is not an issue for the Western female cadres, who like their men, see this all as part of Allah’s grand design.

The Western women who join ISIS, just like the Western men who also join, have by the time they reach Syria and Iraq become true believers—they’ve drank deeply of the “Jim Jones” purple Kool-Aid and don’t mind dying for the cause. In fact they welcome it. Women cadres in ISIS routinely tweet and message out of Syria and Iraq their fervent desire to be “martyred” and await the glory and blessings that they believe will accrue to them if their husbands are “martyred” before they die.

They also dismiss the ruthless bloodshed and sexual violence as necessary for the revolution—much like Lenin’s and Stalin’s purges were seen as cleansing actions to get to the final goal of communism. ISIS true believers trust that with bloodshed they are carrying out the work of Allah in reestablishing the Caliphate and that when it is restored all believers will live peacefully and euphorically by Islamic ideals.

Shannon Conley, on whose case I based my latest book, Bride of ISIS: One Young Woman’s Path Into Homegrown Terrorism was also seduced over the Internet.  After converting she fell under the influence of Anwar al-Awlaki, a Yemeni American who was droned by the U.S. in 2011 for his instigation and involvement in various terror plots against the United States, including the failed Christmas Day “underwear” bomber who tried to take a plane down over Detroit in 2009.  Al-Awlaki now dead, lives on via the Internet and inspires from beyond the grave, convincingly giving out the false message that all Muslims have a duty to go to the battlefield and carry out militant jihad until the End Times, and if they cannot do so must wage attacks at home.

Conley drank the poison and downloaded al Qaeda guerilla manuals, settling on carrying out a VIP attack inside the United States (she lived in Denver) until she realized she would likely not succeed.  In the meantime she fell in love with a Tunisian ISIS fighter with whom she carried out a relationship via Skype. When he proposed marriage she agreed to join him in Syria, although she took an Army Explorer’s course beforehand in the hope of gaining skills to assist the Islamic State.  Thankfully her father learned of her plans—he discovered her one-way ticket to “hell”—and alerted the FBI who arrested her on the airplane’s walkway.

The roles women take in terrorist organizations vary, but as said earlier, militant jihadi organizations are generally male dominated, and women may only take leadership roles over other women.  At this point women joining ISIS may take part in all-female brigades that enforce female morality dress standards and sex segregation, operate checkpoints, and go on home raids.  A Canadian woman is believed, based on the movement tracking her phone, to be working as an ISIS spy. Some of the most influential, like a woman who calls herself Umm Layth, have blogged and used social media to seduce other women into joining.  Such women paint a picture of life lived according to Islamic ideals, blissful marriages with ISIS fighters, as they hold the hope for “martyrdom” alongside the sacrifices necessary to bring about the hoped-for utopian state—no matter what violence that may entail.

Conservative militant jihadi groups often do not allow females into combat roles or use them as suicide bombers until the going gets tough.  In Chechnya, the more liberated roles of women in their society and the deep traumas occurring at the hands of ruthless Russian forces may have caused a different dynamic to play out.  Chechen women were the first to carry out suicide missions once the Chechen rebels embraced the “martyrdom” ideology imported into their movement. Chechen women filled out the ranks of suicide bombers at a fifty/fifty ratio throughout their campaign.  Palestinian, Iraqi and other terrorist groups with more conservative roles for women did not use them as suicide operatives until there was a clear advantage to doing so.  When terrorist leaders found that their men were no longer successfully passing checkpoints that women could still breach while hiding bombs on their bodies, they began to send women.

Chillingly, it has recently been revealed that ISIS now has a new marriage certificate which both husband and wife sign, that declares the final decision over the life and death of the ISIS bride rests with the Islamic State’s leader al-Baghdadi.  Under ‘conditions of wife’ it reads: ‘If the Prince of believers [Baghdadi] consents to her carrying out a suicide mission, then her husband should not prohibit her.’  This may suggest that the group is looking ahead to a similar transition in using female cadres for suicide missions.

While some have feared the Western “brides” have been subjected to group rapes, that fate appears to be reserved to Yazidi slaves primarily, and non ISIS local women whose family’s are forced to give them over to ISIS fighters, sometimes to be “married” repeatedly over a short time period by the ISIS cadres.  Western women who join ISIS generally Tweet and blog positive statements about their time in ISIS, citing both the hardships and the materials “blessings” of living in the stolen quarters of others, taking over their cars and other material goods. Although it’s clear from reports of those who escape, that Westerners who join ISIS—male or female—are not allowed to leave.  Reports of three London girls who joined, reported them in recent months on the run from ISIS, but no clear picture has emerged about their well-being, or lack thereof, in open sources to date.

It appears that as long as the idea of the longed-for Caliphate continues to carry its euphoric power, and ISIS continues to demonstrate some modicum of success in holding and governing territory, young girls who are angry or concerned over geopolitical events, who become convinced that militant jihad is their Islamic duty, and who feel off their track in the West, while simultaneously enticed via the Internet (often in person)—by adventure, romance and the call to live (as they imagine) by Islamic ideals while they contribute to building a longed for utopia—that they will continue to be seduced into the movement, and we will continue to see females leaving the West to become Brides of ISIS.

About the speaker:

Anne Speckhard, Ph.D. is Adjunct Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Georgetown University in the School of Medicine and Director of the International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism ( She is author of Talking to Terrorists and coauthor of Undercover Jihadi. She was responsible for designing the psychological and Islamic challenge aspects of the Detainee Rehabilitation Program in Iraq to be applied to twenty thousand detainees and eight hundred juveniles. She also has interviewed nearly five hundred terrorists, their family members and supporters from various parts of the world including Gaza, the West Bank, Chechnya, Iraq, Jordan, Russia, Canada and many countries in Europe. Her newly released book is Bride of ISIS. Website:

Reference for this article: Speckhard, Dec/Jan 2016, Brides of ISIS: The Internet Seduction of Western Females into ISIS.  Homeland Security Today Volume 13, 1, Pgs 38-40. #ISIS


Debate on “The Future of Gulen Movement in Europe”

Roundtable Lunch Discussion

The Future of Gülen Movement in Europe: Influence of Turkish Politics After the Coup Attempt

With  Prof. Johan Leman, KU Leuven University

Prof. Thijl Sunier, VU University Amsterdam

Tuesday, 7 February 2017 


Beginning as a grassroots community in Turkey in the 1970s, Hizmet (a.k.a. Gülen movement)  is a transnational social initiative active in education, interfaith dialogue and humanitarian aid over 180 countries including Europe.

Accused by president Erdogan for overthrowing his government first in 2013 after the corruption scandal and then failed coup attempt in July 2016, Gülen movement has been declared as terrorist organisation by the Turkish state and all of media, schools, universities, dormitories, associations and foundations affiliated with Gülen movement shut down by decree of law. Tens of thousands of people from the movement are in jail now and their private properties/companies are confiscated. The conflict between Erdoğan’s Turkey and Hizmet is extended and spilled into overseas. In some countries such as in Pakistan, Somalia; Erdoğan’s efforts to close down Hizmet schools were successful.

Facing the challenges coming from Turkey, the crucial question is to understand how the post-coup process is shaping the future of the movement, especially in Europe? Could movement sustain its activities outside Turkey?

Anthropologist Prof Sunier and Prof Leman have made the following presentations at the event:

Prof Sunier thinks that Hizmet Movement differs from other Islamic movements rooting to mystical tradition of Said Nursi. Nursi rejected himself being defined as Sheik (or master) and rather try to to balance the positive knowledge and religion. Fethullah Gulen is however not an exact follower of Sait Nursi. He managed to develop his own way formation on the route of faith.

Gulen Movement is not against the system nor in struggle to defeat it, but in favour of contributing to fix its moral building. According to the movement being a good Muslim is not enough. You should be successful in life as well. This recalls the active engagement in this world of Weber.

The coup in 1980 is milestone in Turkey’s economic development. Before 80s, Turkey suffered a weaker economy and was an insignificant country, however the economic development after 80s made it a part of world economy. Societal development is not unrelated to this economic development and Gulen Movement is part of this. Gulen Movement tried to engage with politics rather than opposing the developing system. Islam is known to be in the rural life which is backward. Cities traditionally belong to nearly only seculars. 80s economic developments and migration to the cities created new urban middle class bringing people to cities. Both AKP and Gulen Movement are part of this social development.

After 80s, Religious Muslims engaged in bureaucracy which belongs exclusively to non-religious before 80s. The followers of Gulen got positions everywhere in police, judiciary, academics, hospitals, army, schools and other state institutions etc. This is not infiltration but normal change in the course of socio economic development. This socio economical extended to Europe, causing similar impacts among the Turks in Europe.

Gulen people established institutions across Europe and this change was interpreted differently by European countries. Some welcomed this but some others didn’t. Until a few years ago German government was very happy with the developments in this respect. However Dutch government was always cautious. Two models of Islam in Europe being one the Mosque the other dialogue and education. Dutch Government prefers The Mosque model.

Prof Leman is in favour of dialogue and education as he thinks the Mosque is closed and incommunicable where dialogue and education is open to communication. Other social dynamics that will shape the future of current trend of social change in Europe include economic situation of Turks. Most Turks and Moroccans living in the West Europe lost their connection with their home lands as being already third generation immigrants. This caused gap between Turkey and local context.

The second is with the development of technology they can commute easier with their homeland ie planes etc. Local dynamics of Western Europe influence the religious life of Muslims in European context which creates differences the understanding in their homeland.

Prof Leman thinks that the Hizmet movement has certainly come a future but they need to be engaged in its core. He argues that even before the coup there were some challenges of Hizmet Movement. Leman says that whether they are good Muslims or not they are civilised. The other thing, dialogue and education are their pillars. Leman knows the movement and its founder well.

In May, two months before the coup, he was in the US have met with Fethullah Gulen. At the meeting in May 2016, Leman asked Gülen what should remain in the movement after his death. Fethullah Gulen’s answer was “the schools and interreligious dialogue”. According to Leman that’s also one that exhibits Hizmet must focus outside Turkey. “If you’re doing that, the Belgian and other Western governments will not adversely treat you”. He also said “there should be a way of communication with Muslims. You can’t communicate the Muslims in the mosque because they are closed but yes you can communicate with Muslims in schools through dialogue. If you can’t go into mosque system, stick to dialogue and education”.

Leman also quoted from journalist Nedim Sener who is hardcore anti-Gulen movement . He said “Sener divides Hizmet people into 3 categories: 1) Sympathizers. These are not necessarily in the movement actively, they observe and appreciate activities undertaken. He adds “I should be in this category” 2) Core people. Hizmet people support the movement actively, financially, mentally etc. 3) Hidden imams. These are people allegedly managing the movement who I never saw one. He also added this has been a tired as repeated for long time but there is no ground and evidence for this. If these do not exist stop saying that.

“Gülen himself is not responsible for the coup” is the opinion of Leman. “Just physically he was not able to do that.” He suspects earlier that “the coup was the work of a disgruntled, pluralistic grouping of Kemalists, among others, soldiers and, yes, some Gulenists. There were unavoidably Gulenists involved. There is no other way when you are in many positions in all sectors of society.”

Leman stressed that to be a multi-religious world movement, the Gulen movement must stay away from domestic Turkish politics and advised to the movement to stick to the core values.

Leman put some critics to the movement for not being more transparent mentioning the schools in Belgium not declaring its affiliation publicly. Furthermore “Hizmet behaves sometimes vague, almost mysterious, for example when it comes to the number of sympathizers they can’t give exact figures. When Dutch government asked the number of mosques in the Nederland the figures are clear but when you asked the GM institutions unclear. Do not do that. Be open. Trust the future of democracy. Otherwise, it would look like a sect.”

The event has continued with an hour question and answer session after the presentations as above.


Dialogue Platform’s Statements on Developments in Turkey

Press Release

Brussels , 15 July 2016

Dialogue Platform’s Statement on Developments in Turkey

Our Honorary President Fethullah Gulen has consistently advocated for democracy and insisted “there is no return from the democracy” at every stage of his life.

Hizmet participants have always denounced the military interventions and demonstrated the attitude for the peaceful coexistence, freedom and democracy. Thus, Dialogue Platform strongly condemns any attempt to throw an elected government by military coup.

We have always supported development of Turkey’s democracy and its membership to European Union despite of the increasing anti-democratic practices in recent years.

President Erdogan and his close circles’ blame on the Hizmet Movement is very irresponsible and concerning.

We hope that Turkey will overcome these difficult days and take this sad incident as an opportunity to strengthen its democracy.

Press Release

Brussels , 17 July 2016

Dialogue Platform’s Response to Aftermath of Coup Attempt in Turkey

Our honorary president Mr. Fethullah Gülen who has been accused of engineering the failed coup attempt has called for an impartial, independent international investigation on Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s allegations that his followers have been involved in the failed coup. He declared he is ready for any independent investigation if he or his followers have any link with the coup attempt in Turkey. You can watch the full statement at

Mr. Gulen condemned the coup attempt just after a few hours and said in a personal statement “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. I categorically deny such accusations.”

Furthermore, Hizmet affiliated individuals and institutions in several European countries are facing threats, hatred messages and attacks for the last two days. Dialogue Platform is deeply concerned that irresponsible messages and baseless accusations against the Hizmet Movement will cause more polarisation and hatred in Europe which may lead to further unrest.

Communiqué de presse

Bruxelles, 15 Juillet 2016

Déclaration de la Plateforme de Dialogue sur les évènements en Turquie

Notre Président honoraire Fethullah Gulen a constamment défendu les valeurs de la démocratie et a insisté à chaque étape de sa vie sur le fait qu’il “ne peut y avoir de retour en arrière de la démocratie”. Les participants du mouvement Hizmet ont toujours dénoncé les interventions militaires et agi pour la coexistence pacifique, la liberté et la démocratie.

Par conséquent, la Plateforme de Dialogue condamne fermement toute tentative de renverser un gouvernement élu par le biais d’un coup d’État. Nous avons toujours soutenu le développement de la démocratie en Turquie et son adhésion à l’Union Européenne, malgré l’augmentation des pratiques non-démocratiques ces dernières années. Les accusations du Président Erdogan et de ses cercles proches à l’égard du Mouvement Hizmet sont très irresponsables et inquiétantes.

Nous espérons que la Turquie surmontera ces jours difficiles et que ces évènements tragiques puissent devenir une opportunité pour renforcer la démocratie.

A propos de la Plateforme de Dialogue

La Plateforme de Dialogue est une association sans but lucratif basée à Bruxelles qui sert de porte-parole pour les institutions de Dialogue affiliées au mouvement Hizmet (aussi connu sous le nom de mouvement Gülen) en Europe. La Plateforme de Dialogue sert également de source d’information concernant le mouvement Hizmet et Fethullah Gülen qui est le président honoraire de la plateforme. Pour de plus amples informations, veuillez consulter

A propos de Fethullah Gülen

Fethullah Gülen est un intellectuel musulman, prédicateur et acteur de la défense des intérêts sociaux dont la dévotion depuis des dizaines d’années au dialogue interculturel, à la tolérance et l’altruisme ont inspiré des millions de personnes en Turquie et à travers le monde. Il est le président honoraire de la Plateforme de Dialogue Interculturel (Bruxelles), du Rumi Forum (Washington DC) et de la Fondation des Journalistes et Ecrivains (Istanbul).


Brussel, 15 juli 2016

Verklaring van het Dialoog Platform inzake de ontwikkelingen in Turkije

Onze erevoorzitter Fethullah Gülen heeft altijd gepleit voor democratie en hield aan dat “er geen terugweg is van democratie” gedurende zijn hele leven.

Volgers van de Hizmetbeweging hebben steeds militaire interventies afgekeurd en hebben een houding aangenomen die blijk geeft van zin voor samenleven in vrede, vrijheid en democratie. Ook nu veroordeelt het Dialoog Platform de poging tot een staatsgreep door het leger.

We hebben steeds de ontwikkeling van de democratie in Turkije en haar lidmaatschap aan de Europese Unie gesteund, ondanks het stijgen van ondemocratische praktijken in de laatste jaren.

De beschuldigingen jegens de Hizmetbeweging door president Erdogan en zijn naaste kringen zijn onverantwoordelijk en zorgwekkend.

We hopen dat Turkije deze moeilijke dagen te boven zal komen en dat deze droevige gebeurtenis een gelegenheid zal zijn voor het versterken van de democratie.

Over het Dialoog Platform

Het Dialoog Platform is een vereniging zonder winstoogmerk, gelegen in Brussel, die de Europese dialooginstellingen gelinkt aan de Hizmetbeweging (ook Gülenbeweging) vertegenwoordigt. Het Platform fungeert ook als een centrale informatiekanaal van de beweging en van Fethullah Gülen, die de erevoorzitter is. Meer informatie vindt u terug

Over Fethullah Gülen

Fethullah Gülen is een moslimintellectueel en sociale pleitbezorger, wiens decennialange inzet op gebied van interreligieuze verdraagzaamheid en altruïsme miljoenen heeft geïnspireerd in Turkije en de hele wereld. Gülen is de erevoorzitter van het Interculturele Dialoog Platform in Brussel, het Rumi Forum in Washington DC en de Stichting voor Journalisten en Schrijvers in Istanboel.

Strong Voice Against Violent Extremism in Brussels

Over 250 Islamic scholars, academics and opinion leaders from all over the world convened in Brussels on 15 and 16 March to discuss the causes and counter-measures of radicalization, violent extremism and terrorism committed in the name of religion. Organised by Dialogue Platform and KU Leuven Fethullah Gülen Chair for Intercultural Studies, the symposium sent a strong and resounding message made all the more meaningful in the absence of a unified voice from the Muslim world.

CVE allFor more information about the symposium and the participating influencers, please visit

The symposium explored the complex links and interactions relating to religious texts, social circumstances and cultural contexts which lead to extremism and violence and provide opportunities to deepen understanding of the patterns of religious violence, its so-called justification as well as  the nature and scope of the moral responses to them. Furthermore, it aimed to stimulate and pool ideas on policy recommendations and community projects that would directly or indirectly undermine violent extremist ideology and recruitment especially within the context of Europe.

The specific questions posed by the symposium organisers to the speakers were:

* Is Islam inherently prone to violence?

* Do Muslims have a particular responsibility to counter violent extremism?

* What tangible steps should Islamic scholars take in countering violent extremism?

* How should we understand jihad today?

* How can we counter hate propaganda spread through social media?

* Does interfaith dialogue have a supporting role in countering violent extremist ideology?

* What should an Islamic studies curriculum look like?

* How can Muslim societies reignite their zeal for freedom of thought?

In first day, there were parallel sessions to discuss and debate these issues over eight workshops in the first day and three panel discussions in the second day. On the second day of the symposium, a final declaratory reflections was read out.

There were 57 speakers including opening speeches. 387 people were registered and attended to the symposium. Some of the key influencers that attended were Asma Afsaruddin, Indiana University, USA; Prof Said Chabbar, Sultan Moulay Slimane University, Morocco; President of the Council of Muslim Scholars, Indonesia; Bishop of Oslo-Norway, and experts on national security from a number of countries. Belgian Minister of Justice, Prof. Koen Geens sent his message to the symposium.

The symposium was broadcasted live on a number of worldwide TV stations.

Find below media coverage of the symposium:

‘De islam is niet de oorzaak van extremisme, wel de oplossing’

250 islamic scholars condem isis and present solutions to countering violent extremism in Brussels

Scholars from around the world gather in Brussels to debate roots of terrorism

Moslim experts veroordelen terrorisme welke frustraties drijven jongeren naar syrie

Onderzoek IS-tijdschrift: IS verspreidt knip-en-plak-islam en verantwoordt gruweldaden zoals nazi’s


Europe and the Muslim World: Perceptions and Realities

Roundtable Lunch Discussion

with Prof. Mark Sedgwick, Aarhus University, Denmark

on Thursday, 25 February 2016, Dialogue Platform

At this event Prof Sedgwick has responded to the questions like to what extent perceptions are grounded in reality? What are the challenges of war, jihad and global terrorism?

Most of the individual Muslims who are best known in today’s Europe are not Western European Muslims but Middle Eastern Muslims such as Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. The public visibility of Muslims in Western Europe is in part a function of the public visibility of the Muslim world, and especially of the Middle East. And what is most visible is conflict.

This roundtable discussion asked why and looked into the political and cultural relations between Western Europe and the Muslim world.

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Inauguration Ceremony of Gülen Chair

We have celebrated the formal signing of the agreement between the University of Leuven and the Intercultural Dialogue Platform, prolongating the chair of “Fethullah Gülen Chair for Intercultural Studies”.

The inauguration has taken place on Tuesday January 19, 2016 in the “rectorale salons” of the university hall in Leuven.

Professor Rik Torfs, rector of the KU Leuven, Professor Emmanuel Gerard, chairholder, and Mr Ramazan Guveli, director of Intercultural Dialogue Platform have signed the formal agreement at the ceremony which was followed by a reception.












Reports Launch on “Rooting out Violent Extremism”

Reports Launch on “Rooting out Violent Extremism”

 Prof. Paul Weller, University of Derby

Ozcan Keles, Dialogue Society

Prof. Gino Schallenbergh, KU Leuven

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Dialogue Platform, Rue Montoyer 31, Brussels

Dialogue Platform has organise a roundtable discussion in light of two recent publications. The meeting has presented an interactive discussion on the publications and the issues that they raise in relation to understanding, communicating and strategising on how to counter violent extremism that claims an Islamic motivation.

Violent Extremism: Naming, Framing and Challenging (Dialogue Society, 2015) by Emma Jane Harris, Paul Weller and Victoria Bisset. In understanding the causes of violent extremism, with a view ultimately to tackling them, it is important to first consider the ways that stakeholders communicate about and around the subject. Drawing on a number of relevant fields such as cognitive linguistics, this report broaches the difficulties in naming ‘violent extremism’, offering examples of problematic language. The report commends some alternative narratives and approaches that can contribute to bringing about positive change in relation to this phenomenon. This report can be downloaded in full here.

A Hizmet Approach to Rooting out Violent Extremism (Centre for Hizmet Studies, 2015) by Ozcan Keles and Ismail Mesut Sezgin. This report offers a summary of Hizmet’s theological refutation of violent extremism. It shows how Hizmet’s core teachings act as a positive counter narrative to such extremism, and describes the channels through which Hizmet popularises that counter-narrative among the wider Muslim public. Drawing attention to the challenges associated with linear, traditional, reactive policy-making directly aimed at defeating violent extremist ideology head-on, the conclusion draws these three parts together explaining the nature and features of Hizmet’s deradicalisation by default approach which attempts to proactively address some of the underlying causes as they relate to ideology, mindset and inculcation. This report can be downloaded in full here


Paul Weller is Professor of Inter-Religious Relations and Senior Research Fellow and Head of Research and Commercial Development at the University of Derby.

Ozcan Keles is a non-practising Barrister, a full-time doctoral candidate at the University of Sussex and the Chairperson of the Dialogue Society.

Gino Schallenbergh is Professor of Islamic and Arabic Studies at KU Leuven and Gent University.

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Turkey’s Kurdish Question and The Hizmet Movement

Roundtable Discussion on “Turkey’s Kurdish Question and the Gulen Movement” with Dr Mustafa Gurbuz, Rethink Institute Washington DC

Tuesday, 12 May 2015 12.30-14.20 

Dialogue Platform hosted a roundtable discussion with Dr Mustafa Gurbuz as the speaker where a selected group of 20 guests participated at its premise, Rue Montoyer 31 Brussels, on 12th May 20015.

Dr Gurbuz presented his recent report on “Turkey’s Kurdish Question and the Gulen Movement” and an hour of Q&A session followed up the presentation.

To summarise the report and the presentation, the following points has been raised:

– The Kurdish question poses a challenge not only to Turkey at large, but also to the Hizmet movement, which has a diverse following that includes a large number of Kurdish participants.

– By recognizing Kurdish identity, the Hizmet movement has taken a progressive attitude by supporting ethnocultural reforms in both discursive and institutional conduct.

– Educational and charitable efforts by Hizmet volunteers are aimed at removing prejudices in both Turkish and Kurdish constituencies, and accordingly, building social trust in the long run.

– Critics find Hizmet to be assimilationist. The main reason referred to by critics is the content of some TV shows in Hizmet-affiliated media.

– The AKP government’s attempt to shut down Hizmet schools in the region has accelerated disenchantment with the peace process among Hizmet participants.

– Hizmet participants find official talks with the PKK on disarmament acceptable with one caveat: Kurdish cultural rights should not be on the table with the PKK, since that would make the PKK “the” legitimate advocate of all Kurds.

– As long as the AKP government negotiates pro-Kurdish rights solely with the PKK, refusing to consult other civil actors including the Hizmet organizations, the movement’s constituency may remain skeptical about the peace process.

Dr Gurbuz noted “the Hizmet-affiliated media experiences serious difficulties in speaking to both its Turkish and Kurdish constituencies. The Kurdish issue is potentially a divisive issue, not only for the country, but also within the movement itself. One major challenge stems from strong support for the Hizmet movement among Turkish nationalists.

The movement recruited a large number of youngsters from Turkish nationalist parties such as MHP after the 1980s. Although these recruits were transformed by the movement and became more global in perspective, some form of nationalism has always been in place.

This reality was reinforced by Turkey’s increasing integration with the global neoliberalist system, which has revived a heavy nationalist tone in Turkish politics, including secular nationalism (ulusalcilik) and religious nationalism (neo-Ottomanism). As they are frequently portrayed as ‘pro-American’ and ‘pro-Israel,’ Hizmet participants often find themselves in need of highlighting their patriotism.”

To view and/or download the full report please click on the link.

Dialogue Platform holds regular roundtable discussion in similar kind of this topic and the future events could be followed in the events section.

About the guest speaker: Mustafa Gurbuz’s areas of expertise are Turkish politics and society; Kurdish politics; Sociology of Islam; Middle Eastern politics. He received his Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Connecticut and was a post-doctoral scholar at the University of South Florida. His doctoral dissertation, “Kurdish Ethnic and Islamic Mobilizations in Turkey: A Study of Rival Movements,” explores how social movement activists construct a competition culture after a long period of political violence. Dr. Gurbuz’s publications appeared in Research in Social Movements, Conflict, and Change, Middle East Critique, Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs, European Journal of Turkish Studies, and Research in Social Stratification and Mobility. Dr. Gurbuz is associate editor of Sociology of Islam and a contributing editor of Mobilizing Ideas. Dr Gurbuz is based at Rethink Institute in Washington DC.

Inspiration, Mindset, Relevance and Controversy

A conference on Hizmet (Gulen) Movement was organised at the European Parliament, hosted by Mr Lambsdorff MEP, vice president of European Parliament.

The Hizmet Movement has been attracting an increasing European and international attention. This is partly because the movement is now more visible due to its evolving transnational character and its increasing capacity to inspire more people to carry out projects primarily in the fields of education, intercultural understanding, respect for diversity and humanitarian aid. Besides, the movement has consistently and publicly taken a clear position against any kind of religious extremism and violence. On the other hand, the presence and activities of the Movement trigger some controversy. Some question to its objectives, organization style, role with politics and the extent of its impact.

Furthermore, the Hizmet Movement has recently become the open target of the then Turkish president Erdoğan and his allies. R. Tayyip Erdoğan constantly diabolized Mr. Fethullah Gülen, the inspirer of the Movement, and he led a witch hunt for the participants of the Movement in the country. In the past, the Hizmet Movement had supported AK Party policies which were progressive, pro-EU and more democratic. However, it then became a strong critic of the Erdoğan regime, opposing its increasingly authoritarian policies and laxity against the serious corruption charges.

The Movement is actively present in many European countries. Its participants have taken various initiatives and established schools, education/culture centers, dialogue organizations and businesspeople associations. Moreover, Mr. Gülen is among few (religious) leaders in Turkey which have consistently supported the EU peocess. The participants believe that Turkey deserves a well-functioning democray, better records in human rights, thus the EU is the best leverage to achive this. However, the movement similarly also faces critics from some groups in Europe.

Certain questions, then, call for reflection: What is the Hizmet Movement all about ? What makes its participants move? Is it a threat or an opportunity? How do they think on pertinent European issues? Why is there so much controversy surrounding the movement, particularly in Turkey?

This panel debate, first of its kind in the European Parliament, aims to bring insider perspectives to better position the mindset of the Movement, controversy about it as well as to inquire its relevance for Europe. There will be two panelists, Özcan Keleş, the chairperson of the London-based Dialogue Society and İhsan Yılmaz, associate professor at Faith University, Istanbul. While Mr. Keleş will reflect more on the inspiration, objectives and relevance of the Movement through his personal story, Dr. Yılmaz will reflect more on the current situation in Turkey and the Movement’s opposition. 


Prof. Ihsan Yilmaz (Fatih University, Istanbul)

Ihsan Yilmaz is Associate Professor of Political Science at Fatih University, Istanbul, Turkey where he is also the Director of the PhD Programme in Political Science and International Relations at the university’s Institute of Social Sciences. He received his BA in Political Science and International Relations from the Bosporus University in 1994 and completed his PhD at the Faculty of Law and Social Sciences, School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London in 1999. He is the author of (2005) Muslim Laws, Politics and Society in Modern Nation States: Dynamic Legal Pluralisms in England, Turkey and Pakistan, Aldershot, Ashgate.

He is the editor of Turkish Journal of Politics (TJP) and regular columnist of Today’s Zaman, an English language daily published in Turkey.

Possible topic with Prof Yilmaz: Turkey’s Current Challenges in Foreign Policy & Domestic Issues

Mr. Ozcan Keles – Chairman of Dialogue Society London

Ozcan is a non-practising Barrister and member of the Honourable Society of Gray’s Inn. He was the Executive Director of Dialogue Society from 2008 until September 2014. Between 2006 and 2009 Ozcan was a full-time Doctoral Candidate in Human Rights Law at the Human Rights Centre of the University of Essex, where he held the Scholarship Award of 2006.

He obtained his LLM in Human Rights Law from SOAS, University of London, in 2002.


A documentary film on Hizmet Movement

Dialogue Platform has co-organised the Premiere of “LOVE IS A VERB” film together with the production company- Global Vision. The event took place at the prestigious Galeries Cinema in Grand Place, Brussels on 15th October.

Love is a verb is a documentary by Terry Spencer Hesser exploring the ordinary lives and stories of people in Hizmet, a social movement inspired by the Islamic scholar and teacher, Fethullah Gulen, and geared towards serving all people regardless of their faith and religion through dialogue, education and relief work. The documentary was narrated by Hollywood actress Ashley Judd and produced by Global Vision Productions.

200 guests were privileged to watch the film at the special event before it will be available to the public in spring 2015. The premiere has started with a welcome drink and followed by screening of the film. Afterwards, the guests had the opportunity to ask questions at the 30 minute Q&A session to the Director.

Dialogue Platform’s guests enjoyed the canapé reception at the end of the night where they also exchanged their thoughts each other on the film and the Hizmet Movement.

We have the pleasure the present a short video that our distinguished guests reflect their thoughts about the documentary and the work of Hizmet volunteers or Gulen Movement in general.

Reflections after the screening – VIDEO

Photos of the night

Watch trial & Directors Message – VIDEO