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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

EVENT REPORT:

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 (www.ICSVE.org). 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: www.AnneSpeckhard.com

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. http://edition.pagesuite-professional.co.uk//launch.aspx?eid=0d492b24-092f-4b2c-8132-b3a895356fc8 #ISIS

Source: http://www.icsve.org

The purge of Erdogan’s Turkey spreads abroad: The future of Hizmet in Europe

The Hizmet, also known as Gülen Movement, has been started as faith based religious community in the 60’s in Turkey around Mr. Fethullah Gülen’s ideas. During the 80’s with the momentum of political and economic liberalism in Turkey, it has been become a nation wide religious movement. In 90’s, it extended its education activities cross-borders and transformed from a grassroots community in Turkey to a wider social effort around the world through opening non-denominational educational institutions and dialogue centres. It has been evolved from a religious community to a transnational faith inspired civil society movement.

The movement has been attracted scholars in the last decade for its activities, mobilization capacity, educational institutions, media outlets and dialogue centers. The main focus of the movement is education and interfaith and intercultural dialogue. It has been very active in Turkey and also in many continents especially in Africa.

However, the rift between Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi – AKP) put the movement in a challenging and problematic position in Turkey and elsewhere. The conflict between these two actors has been dominated the Turkish politics in last three years. Erdoğan’s war against Hizmet is resulted as a social purge against Hizmet participants in Turkey. President Erdoğan blamed Hizmet for the failed coup within hours of the start of the coup starting a massive purge in no time. He declared the movement as a terrorist organization. Turkey officially designated Hizmet as top one terrorist organisation along with PKK and ISIS, and persons who government deem has affiliation with as terrorists for guilt by association. The failed coup of 15th July 2016 gave him an opportunity to extend his war not only against Hizmet people but also targeting other different groups such as Kurds, Alevis and secular people in Turkey.

The Turkish state shut down all of media, schools, universities, dormitories, associations and foundations affiliated with the Hizmet Movement by decree of law. Business people’s companies are confiscated. Many people from the movement are in jail now. 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 Hizmet schools were resulted successfully.

Facing this reality and challenge coming from Turkey, the crucial question is to understand how the post-coup process shape the future of the Movement, especially in Europe? Could movement sustain its activities outside Turkey? The movement has started its activities in the beginning of 80’s with first migrants Turks in Europe. There are a couple of networks in the movement lead mostly by the second generation of Turkish descendants: schools, dialogue centres, women associations, charity organizations, and tutoring centres are some of the institutions that are developed in last decade.

The first networks were established around the first Turkish migrants people in different European cities. Following the same legacy and logic of the migrant movements, the movement started up its own institutions via associations and cultural centers. The project-based institutions has been emerged with the second generation and spread in many European countries. The institutionalisation of the movement in local contexts is a recent phenomenon for the Hizmet. Mostly the first institutions with few exceptions are business associations that later become the financial source of the movement and tutoring centres that resulted as schools. The project based institutions answer the need of migrant people in Europe. They have firstly and mostly educational problems. The tutoring centres were opened and supported by the Hizmet to struggle with the lack of education and early drop out in education. The centres are providing tutoring for students and families. In the beginning, the first institutions were opened and run by the Turkish origin people.

As a consequence of these first initiators, the Turkish identity is very present in the institutions. However, with the arrival of the second generation who knows very well the local needs and problematic issues that they face such as employment, discrimination, they developed more a local understanding of Hizmet. At the same time, the Hizmet movement keep its transnational ties for long time. It becomes more cosmopolitan-transnational and global. This global and transnational aspect of the movement affects also Hizmet activities in Europe. The emphasis has been remained on local activities and depend the national contexts.

The Movement has different settings and adaptation model in different contexts. In Europe, local and national circumstances shape the movement’s strategies and aims. In that sense, there is not one movement but maybe one can talk about several movements. The adaptation and integration to the local contexts has been already on the agenda of the movement, however the ‘Turkish problem’ force the movement to re-think its activities, networks, structures.

Are schools, dialogue centers, women associations, charity organizations, tutoring centres functioning as previously or is there a change in their organizational structure and ideology? The Turkishness is seen in most part of the movement, especially in leadership in schools, associations. Some scholars define the movement in terms of Turkish Islamic movement. Is there a change? The institutions define themselves as neutral establishments, not present themselves directly affiliated with the movement. There is no clear attachment and formulation about the definition of the Hizmet inspired organization. As the movement is widely known in Europe via media and tragic harassments against Hizmet people happened after coup attempt in several European cities, is this hesitation about the structural identity going to be continue or how will the institutions respond to this challenge of self-identification?

The religious inspiration and motivation is always an important element to understand movement’s objectives and activities, however during the last decade, the cosmopolitan understanding of Islam and also human values are developed among Hizmet followers. The crisis with AKP as political Islam opens the doors indirectly to reconsider what is Islam and how a Muslim lives faithfully in a secular context in Europe. The clash between two actors is also perceived as a problem within Islam and the clash of two Islamic understanding. What will be the relation of Hizmet with Islam? Is it a crisis of Islam or a local problem? How does the movement react with this specific question if it is a problem within Islam ?

Professor Leman and Professor Sunier have explored some of the challenges and questions with regards to the above matters and the implications of the coup on Hizmet in Europe.

To watch the discussion please click here

Fethullah Gülen: “I demand an international commission for the coup attempt in Turkey”

Read the article in French @ Le Monde

English translation of the op-ed by Mr. Gulen originally published in Le Monde on August 10, 2016.

On the night of July 15, Turkey went through the most catastrophic tragedy in its recent history as a result of the attempted military coup. The events of that night could be called a serious terror coup.

Turkish people from all walks of life who thought the era of military coups was over showed solidarity against the coup and on the side of democracy. While the coup attempt was in progress, I condemned it in the strongest terms.

Twenty minutes after the military coup attempt surfaced, before the real actors were known, President Erdogan hastily blamed me. It is troubling that an accusation was issued without waiting for the event’s details and the perpetrators’ motives to emerge. As someone who has suffered through four coups in the last 50 years, it is especially insulting to be associated with a coup attempt. I categorically reject such accusations.

I have been living a reclusive life in self-exile in a small town in the United States for the last 17 years. The assertion that I convinced the eighth largest army in the world – from 6,000 miles away – to act against its own government is not only baseless, it is false, and has not resonated throughout the world.

If there are any officers among the coup plotters who consider themselves as a sympathizer of Hizmet movement, in my opinion those people committed treason against the unity of their country by taking part in an event where their own citizens lost their lives. They also violated the values that I have cherished throughout my life, and caused hundreds of thousands of innocent people to suffer under the government’s oppressive treatment.

If there are those who acted under the influence of an interventionist culture that persists among some of the military officers and have put these interventionist reflexes before Hizmet values, which I believe is unlikely, then an entire movement cannot be blamed for the wrongdoings of those individuals. I leave them to God’s judgment.

No one is above the rule of law, myself included. I would like for those who are responsible for this coup attempt, regardless of their identities, to receive the punishment they deserve if found guilty in a fair trial.  The Turkish judiciary has been politicized and controlled by the government since 2014 and, consequently, the possibility of a fair trial is very small. For this reason, I have advocated several times for the establishment of an international commission to investigate the coup attempt and I have expressed my commitment to abide by the findings of such a commission.

Hizmet movement participants have not been involved in one single violent incident throughout its 50-year history. They haven’t even taken to the streets to confront Turkish security forces while they have been suffering under the government’s “witch hunt,” to use Mr. Erdoğan’s own words, for the last three years.

Despite being subjected to a smear campaign and suffering under state oppression for the last three years in the hands of a politically controlled law enforcement and the judiciary, Hizmet movement participants have complied with the law, opposed injustices through legitimate means and only defended their rights within the legal framework.

Turkey’s legal and law enforcement agencies have been mobilized for the last three years to investigate and reveal an alleged “parallel state” that they claim that I run.

The administration called the 2013 public corruption probe an organized attempt by Hizmet sympathizers within the bureaucracy to bring down the government. Despite detaining 4,000 people, purging tens of thousands of government employees and unlawfully seizing hundreds of NGOs and private businesses, authorities were unable to find a single piece of credible evidence to prove their claims.

Turkey’s prime minister called an opportunity to meet with me “heaven-sent” in May 2013; however, after the public corruption probe emerged in December 2013, he began using hate language such as “assassins” and “blood sucking vampires” when referring to Hizmet movement participants.

After the treasonous coup attempt of July 15, the attacks have become unbearable. Turkish government officials also began referring to me and people sympathetic to my views as a “virus” and “cancer cells that need to be wiped out.” Hundreds of thousands of people that have supported institutions and organizations affiliated with the Hizmet movement have been dehumanized in one way or another.

Their private properties have been confiscated, bank accounts taken over and their passports cancelled, restricting their freedom of travel. Hundreds of thousands of families are living through a humanitarian tragedy due to this ongoing witch hunt. News reports show that nearly 90,000 individuals have been purged from their jobs and 21,000 teachers’ teaching licenses have been revoked.

Is the Turkish government forcing these families to starve to death by preventing them from working and prohibiting them from leaving the country? What is the difference between this treatment and the pre-genocide practices throughout European history?

I’ve witnessed every single military coup in Turkey and, like many other Turkish citizens, have suffered during and after each one. I was imprisoned by the order of the junta administration after the March 12, 1971 coup. After the coup of September 12, 1980, a detention warrant was issued against me and I lived as a fugitive for six years.

Right after the February 28, 1997, post-modern military coup, a lawsuit asking for capital punishment was filed against me with the charge of “an unarmed terrorist organization consisting of one person.”

During all of these oppressive, military-dominated administrations, three cases accusing me of “leading a terror organization” were opened and, in each case, I was cleared of the charges. I was targeted by the authoritarian military administrations back then, and now, I face the very same accusations projected in an even more unlawful manner by a civilian autocratic regime.

I had friendly relations with leaders from various political parties, such as Mr. Turgut Ozal, Mr. Suleyman Demirel and Mr. Bulent Ecevit, and genuinely supported their policies that I found to be beneficial to the larger community. They treated me with respect, especially when recognizing Hizmet activities that contribute to social peace and education.

Even though I distanced myself from the idea of political Islam, I praised the democratic reforms undertaken by Mr. Erdogan and AKP leaders during their first term in power.

But throughout my life, I have stood against military coups and intervention in domestic politics. When I declared 20 years ago that “there is no turning back from democracy and secularism of the state,” I was accused and insulted by the same political Islamists who are close to the current administration. I still stand behind my words. More than 70 books based on my articles and sermons spanning40 years are publicly available. Not only is there not a single expression that legitimizes the idea of a coup in these works, but, on the contrary, they discuss universal human values that are the foundation of democracy.

Emancipating Turkey from the vicious cycle of authoritarianism is possible only through the adoption of a democratic culture and a merit-based administration. Neither a military coup nor a civilian autocracy is a solution.

Unfortunately, in a country where independent media outlets are shut down or taken under government custody, a significant portion of Turkish citizens were made to believe – through relentless pro-government propaganda – that I am the actor behind the July 15 coup. However, world opinion, which is shaped by objective information, clearly sees that what is going on is a power grab by the administration under the guise of a witch-hunt.

Of course, what matters is not majority opinion but the truths that will emerge through the process of a fair trial. Tens of thousands of people, including myself, who have been the target of such gross accusations, would like to clear our names through a fair judicial process. We do not want to live with this suspicion that was cast on us. Unfortunately, the government has exerted political control over the judiciary since 2014, thereby destroying the opportunity for Hizmet sympathizers to clear their names of these accusations.

I openly call on the Turkish government to allow for an international commission to investigate the coup attempt, and promise my full cooperation in this matter. If the commission finds one-tenth of the accusations against me to be justified, I am ready to return to Turkey and receive the harshest punishment.

Participants in the Hizmet movement have been overseen by hundreds of governments, intelligence agencies, researchers or independent civil society organizations for 25 years and have never been found to be involved in illegal activity. For this reason, many countries do not take seriously the accusations of the Turkish government.

The most important characteristic of the Hizmet movement is to not to seek political power, but instead to seek long-term solutions for the problems threatening the future of their societies. At a time when Muslim-majority societies are featured in the news for terror, bloodshed and underdevelopment, Hizmet participants have been focusing on raising educated generations who are open to dialogue and actively contributing to their societies.

Since I have always believed that the biggest problems facing these societies are ignorance, intolerance-driven conflicts and poverty, I have always encouraged those who would listen to build schools instead of mosques or Quran tutoring centers.

Hizmet participants are active in education, health care and humanitarian aid not only in Turkey, but also in more than 160 countries around the world. The most significant characteristic of these activities is that they serve people of all religions and ethnic backgrounds – not just Muslims.

Hizmet movement participants opened schools for girls in the most difficult areas of Pakistan and continued to provide education in the Central African Republic during the country’s civil war. While Boko Haram took young girls hostage in Nigeria, Hizmet participants opened schools that educated girls and women. In France and the French-speaking world, I have encouraged people who share my ideas and values to fight against groups that embrace radical Islamic ideologies and to support the authorities in this struggle. In these countries, I strived for Muslims to be recognized as free and contributing members of society, and have urged them to become part of the solution rather than be associated with the problems.

Despite receiving threats, I categorically condemned numerous times terrorist groups such as Al Qaida and ISIS who taint the bright face of Islam. However, the Turkish government is trying to convince governments around the world to act against schools that have been opened by individuals who did not take part in the July 15 coup attempt, and who have always categorically rejected violence. My appeal to governments around the world is that they ignore the Turkish government’s claims and reject its irrational demands.

Indeed, the Turkish government’s political decision to designate the Hizmet movement as a terrorist organization resulted in the closure of institutions such as schools, hospitals and relief organizations. Those who have been jailed are teachers, entrepreneurs, doctors, academics and journalists. The government did not produce any evidence to show that the hundreds of thousands targeted in the government’s witch hunt supported the coup or that they were associated with any violence.

It is impossible to justify actions such as burning down a cultural center in Paris, detaining or holding hostage family members of wanted individuals, denying detained journalists access to medical care, shutting down 35 hospitals and the humanitarian relief organization Kimse Yok Mu, or forcing 1,500 university deans to resign as part of a post-coup investigation.

It appears that, by presenting the recent purges as efforts that target only Hizmet participants, the Turkish government is in fact removing anyone from the bureaucracy who is not loyal to the ruling party, while also intimidating civil society organizations. It is dreadful to see human rights violations occurring in Turkey, including the torture detailed in recent reports by Amnesty International. This is truly a human tragedy.

The fact that the July 15 coup attempt – which was an anti-democratic intervention against an elected government – was foiled with Turkish citizens’ support is historically significant. However, the coup’s failure does not mean a victory for democracy. Neither the domination by a minority nor the domination of a majority that results in the oppression of a minority nor the rule of an elected autocrat is a true democracy.

One cannot speak of democracy in the absence of the rule of law, separation of powers and essential human rights and freedoms, especially the freedom of expression. True victory for democracy in Turkey is only possible by reviving these core values.

Fethullah Gülen is an intellectual, preacher and a social advocate.

Fethullah Gülen interview with POLITICO

 

Fethullah Gülen: ‘I don’t have any regrets’

By

Fethullah Gülen, the Muslim cleric that the Turkish government blames for the recent attempted coup, has long been reclusive, rarely granting interviews. But in the wake of the accusations against him, he’s sought to clear his name.

Gülen recently agreed to answer a handful of written questions from POLITICO. The exchange is here in full:

You insist your movement is peaceful, not political. But multiple sources tell me that Hizmet has a dark side — where individuals are carefully groomed to enter government and related professions with the intent of an ultimate takeover. Is this true? If not, is it possible that these sorts of activities are happening without your knowledge?

I have served as a preacher for nearly 30 years before coming to the U.S. and my friends continued to publish my talks after I settled here. There are over 70 books based on my articles and talks. It is natural that in Turkish government there are people who share some of my views just as there are those who don’t share them.

My teaching has always been to act within [the] law and in an ethical way. If anybody who follows my works acts illegally or unethically, or if they disobey the lawful orders of their superiors, that is a betrayal of my teachings and I fully support their being investigated and facing the consequences.

If there is no discrimination, government institutions reflect the colors and patterns of its society. We know that in Turkish government institutions there are people of various political and religious orientations, such as nationalists, neonationalists, Maoists, Kemalists, Alevis, leftists, sympathizers of Sufi orders and others. For decades, none of these groups could be transparent about their identities except the Kemalists because of political profiling and discrimination. And now, loyalty to Erdoğan is replacing loyalty to Ataturk as the criteria for acceptable identity.

It is the constitutional right of every Turkish citizen to serve in their government institutions if they are qualified to do so. To accuse anybody of having a nefarious goal without evidence is slander. If people are afraid to reveal their identity for fear of reprisals, it is the regime’s problem, not theirs.

As far as my discourse is concerned, I have never advocated for regime change in Turkey. To the contrary, 22 years ago, in 1994, I told publicly that there will be no return from democracy in Turkey or elsewhere in the world. This was both a prediction and a commitment to democracy. Publications who are allied with President Erdoğan now, criticized me severely then, nearly calling me an infidel. When the military was dominating the domestic politics during the late 1990s and early 2000s, I was charged in Turkish courts … but not a single piece of evidence could be brought to show that I supported any other regime but democracy.

What do you think the future holds for your movement in the wake of the attempted coup in Turkey and Turkish leaders’ demonization of your organization?

President Erdoğan appears determined to wipe all the institutions set up by Hizmetparticipants and prevent any future attempts to establish any new institutions. This is contrary to [the] Turkish constitution and all the international agreements Turkey is a party to. But unless world leaders take a stance with effective measures against this witch hunt, there is no internal dynamic in Turkey to stop the president.

Our friends have so far defended their rights through peaceful protests and in Turkish courts. Now even law offices are being raided and lawyers are being detained. People’s right to defend themselves in the court of law is taken away from them. [The] Erdoğan government is doing everything to push these people to violence. But so far they resisted and remained peaceful and I am confident that they will remain so. Some Hizmet participants have left the country to seek opportunities for investment or for professional work abroad.

This is a sad loss for Turkey but it is the only choice for some people. Private properties worth hundreds of millions of dollars have been confiscated. I hope and pray that this madness will not last for long.

If the U.S. government decides to extradite you to Turkey, will you agree to the decision?

The U.S. government has a long history of upholding the rule of law and respecting freedoms. Because of this, they have a respectable reputation around the world. I don’t consider it likely that they will abandon this tradition and undermine their reputation simply because President Erdoğan is so adamant about this issue. In the unlikely event that the extradition matter is decided on political grounds, I have already stated that they don’t need to force me out of the country, I will buy my own ticket and go on my own will without blinking an eye.

I am not worried about myself but I am worried about President Erdoğan’s insistence jeopardizing Turkey’s relationship with the U.S. and NATO. Both the U.S. and NATO played crucial roles in transforming Turkey from a single party regime to an imperfect democracy. If Turkey’s relationship with the U.S. and NATO are harmed, I don’t think it will benefit Turkish democracy in any way.

Is it true that you and President Erdoğan were once friends and allies? If so, what caused the tensions between you that have led to this situation today?

Many observers called our relationship an alliance but in truth, we were never very close. I met him two or three times, all before he ran for elections. When his party ran for elections I was already here, so I could not vote anyway, but Hizmetsympathizers supported his party through their votes and their voices in the media.

The reason for this support is not complicated. In going into elections in 2002 they [Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party] promised moving Turkey forward in its bid for EU membership by implementing democratic reforms; enhancing human rights and freedoms; better integrating Turkey with the world; ending public corruption, and government’s political profiling of people and their discriminatory measures. I and my friends supported them for these promises.

Leading into elections in 2011, they promised a democratic constitution that would be drafted by civilians without fear of military generals. But after winning that election they began to reverse every democratic reform they implemented before. The democratic constitution was first conditioned upon the inclusion of executive presidency and then completely forgotten.

In the past, I did support the idea of a presidential system if it is to be modeled after the U.S. or France or other countries where there are checks and balances against the president. But Mr Erdoğan’s proposal was akin to a sultan regime. I could not support such a system with a clear conscience.

Mr Erdoğan put pressure on me and Hizmet sympathizers to publicly support his idea of a presidential system. He increased the pressure by supporting government-funded alternatives to Hizmet institutions and then began threatening to close them down. If we complied with his demand and became loyalists, we would be enjoying the Turkish government’s favors now. But we declined and we have been facing their wrath for the last three years.

This might be called the price of independence. It is a heavy price indeed but I don’t have any regrets and I don’t believe any of my friends have any regrets. My only sorrow is that the country continues to suffer because nobody can stand against his uninhibited ambitions.

If you had the opportunity to speak to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and U.S. President Barack Obama now, what would you say to them?

I don’t think President Erdoğan would consider it worthwhile to speak with me. In the past, I made efforts to reach out to them via letters on the government’s profiling and discrimination, or on the issue of how to address the plight of Kurdish citizens. But none of those attempts were taken seriously. Now, I just pray that God gives him prudence so that he doesn’t jeopardize the future of this great nation.

I witnessed President Obama’s efforts to maintain the relationship with Turkey despite the challenges of dealing with an authoritarian leader. The U.S -Turkish relationship is very important for both countries but more vital for Turkey. I would be sad to see this relationship deteriorate. At the same time, President Erdoğan’s domestic actions are undermining core democratic values of U.S. and NATO.

I am worried that while trying to maintain the relationship, the ground on which this relationship is built upon is shifting. According to the media reports that I see, violent radical groups like ISIS are getting tacit support within Turkey, the handling of security concerns regarding the PKK [the Kurdistan Workers’ Party] is causing civilian casualties and suffering among Kurdish citizens and President Erdoğan’s ambitions to become a national hero is threatening to further destabilize the region. There is growing anti-Americanism and the media under President Erdoğan’s control is playing a leading role in this.

How to keep the relationship alive while preventing Turkey from turning into another Middle Eastern authoritarian regime is a very sensitive task and I hope that the president’s capable team of experts will lead him in the right direction in managing this challenge.

Source: http://www.politico.eu/article/fethullah-gulen-full-interview-politico-turkey-coup-erdogan/

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 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=acYkhO5RKAw.

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 www.dialoguepatlform.eu

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).


Persbericht

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 opwww.dialogueplatform.eu

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 counteringviolentextremism.eu

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

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Fethullah Gulen Condemns Brussels Terrorist Attacks and Extends Condolences to Victims

Fethullah Gulen, the Honorary President of Intercultural Dialogue Platform, has issued a statement to condemn the Brussels terrorist attacks and extended condolences to the victims.

The statement has also been published in Belgian newspapers, De Morgen and La Libre Belgique.  

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To read Mr. Gulen’s message in Dutch click here.

“I strongly condemn the brutal terrorist attacks at the Brussels International Airport and Metro station on March 22 that resulted in the deaths of more than 30 people and the injuries of hundreds.

Regardless of the perpetrators and their stated purposes, every terrorist attack is a murder and an attack on the sanctity of life itself, and deserves condemnation in the strongest terms. Neither a religion nor any human being with a conscience can condone such cruelty.

Those who carry out such attacks and who support the perpetrators are oblivious to the ethos of the religion that they proclaim, and inflict the biggest damage to the religion’s reputation in the world. Those who consciously perpetrate such acts have lost touch with their very humanity, and do not represent any religious identity.

In addition to the intelligence and security measures taken to prevent individual terrorist attacks, there is a pressing need for cooperation between states and civil society groups to eliminate swamp-like environments and conditions that facilitate recruitment by terrorist groups.

I am confident that leaders in countries with strong democratic and legal foundations, like Belgium, will act with prudence to develop lasting solutions that incorporate their Muslim citizens and avoid feeding into the hateful rhetoric of terrorist groups.

These heinous terrorist attacks have been inflicted not only on the Belgian people but also on the solidarity of humanity and universal human values. I send my deepest condolences to the relatives and loved ones of those who lost their lives, and the people of Belgium. I pray for the fast recovery of the wounded.

On this occasion I also send my condolences and prayers to the citizens of all countries, including my home land of Turkey, who lost their loved ones in recent terrorist attacks.

I pray to God, the Most Graceful, the Compassionate, to save humanity from the scourge of terrorism and spread an atmosphere around the world where people empathically embrace each other.”

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To read Mr Gulen’s message in French click here

About Fethullah Gulen
Fethullah Gulen is an Islamic scholar, preacher and social advocate, whose decades‐long commitment to interfaith tolerance and altruism has inspired millions in Turkey and around the world. Gulen is the honorary chairman of the Intercultural Dialogue Platform, Brussels, Belgium; Foundation of Journalists and Writers, Istanbul, Turkey; and Rumi Forum, Washington DC.

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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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

Speakers

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.

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

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