From the Hizmet Movement to the Fethullah Terror Organization

A sorrowful story in which heroic tanks of "Golden Generation" turned to killer tanks that opened fire on their own people...

From the Hizmet Movement to the Fethullah Terror Organization

Erhan Erken

The first time I heard the name of Fethullah Gülen was when I was in high school in the late 1970s. If I am not mistaken, a friend of mine had given one of his cassettes to me and this was how I had heard about him. In those days, sermons of some preachers in mosques used to be recorded and copied.

The sermons of Fethullah Gülen were impressive. Sometimes it was explaining the truths of faith with very striking examples, usually from the lives of Prophet Mohamed (pbuh) and his companions. What influenced me most among his cassettes was his sermon called "Golden Generation" that was highly popular at that time. The case that he was mentioning in that sermon was briefly about an event that took place in World War II. He was explaining in detail an order that had been given by a German commander who was fighting against the Soviet Empire. He had ordered his soldiers to pass over a marsh. He had sent a few lines of tanks into the marsh and it was only in the third or fourth round that other thanks were able to pass the march marching over the first tanks that sank into the march. Of course previous tanks had sunk into the marsh together with the soldiers in them. This was a striking analogy.

¨You see,¨ said Fethullah Gülen, ¨The "Golden Generation" must be like the soldiers who went into the marsh without any hesitation. If you and we are able to be like them those people coming after us would be at ease and find peace.¨ What was mentioned here was an example of an amazing altruism and a spirit of donation. The first time I met the followers of Fethullah Gülen was in 1980 when I entered to the Bosphorus University. They were reading Epistles of Light, written by Said Nursi, but used to keep their heads down and did not join student activities we organized in the university. They used to have a world apart. Despite our efforts, we couldn't incorporate them in our social activities. When we used to have our book critic meetings, their elder brothers who were also their seniors in the Gülen movement, used to organize another program and those who wanted to attend to our meetings weren't able to so. To our short trips, in spite of our insistent invitations, only few of them could attend as if observers. We scrutinized with their older brothers on this issue many times but we couldn't break their resistance.

They used to say clearly that ¨Our friends don't take on us, don't urge us to attend such kind of activities.¨ Frankly speaking, we wouldn't understand the reason under their behavior and wouldn't like it, believed that it wouldn't be much useful to have a dispute with our friends.

In the early 1980s, there was a trend among the followers of Gülen, which was called "Service" movement, to choose basic sciences to study. Those who were studying at engineering faculties entered the university exams again and started to study basic sciences. When we asked them about this choice they told us that their elders asked them to become teachers. Later on when we saw school and other institutions of education in Turkey and abroad we understood that this was a strategy to build an organiazation of education.


The first and only time when I met Fethullah Gülen was in 1986 when I and a group of friends of mine went to Mecca for the Hajj prayer. We had a meeting with him in Mina. One of our friends arranged the meeting and we went to see him. It was a long conversation. We asked him why the members of his movement didn't attend to our activities in the universities and why there wouldn't be an air of unity among us. Of course, we asked him questions to understand him better. Sometimes the tone of our conversation hardened, even a friend of us read to him the Surah al Kafirun and this highly tensed up the setting. Then as we saw some people who witnessed our conversation didn't like us much, we asked permission to leave the room.

The most vital detection I got from that conversation was a remark of him which reflected to the public opinion through one of his sermons later. Some time he got angry a little and said ¨Nobody will be able to throw me and my friends into a struggle before we are ready for it. I am taking advantage of the system's idiocy and I am especially interested in some ministries in Turkey. I know the appointments in some places like the back of my hand...¨ These statements clarified my thoughts about Fethullah Gülen. He had made a move towards a very big action. He wanted to break the westernized Kemalist structure that had controlled Turkey until that day since the Ottoman Empire and he wanted to capture some positions through his followers. He had set to a long termed work.

When viewed from the outside, even if we didn't know the inner functioning, the interests of Gülen movement and its relations revealed themselves so:

They concentrated on the extra scholastic private teaching institutions that prepares students for the high school and university exams. Then they turned to private schools. Then they began to open private schools in other countries. This process attracted the favor and support of state authorities and other voluntary foundations.

Then they began to get interested in the companies of the economic structure. They founded financial organizations and connected these economic organizations with educational work. We have heard that they tied their schools in the cities of Turkey to the schools in other countries with a brotherhood link. They made each city responsible of a school in a foreign country, assigned duties to these cities in order to take care of their schools abroad in every aspect.

As Gülen mentioned in the conversation that we made with him, they followed a silent and deep staffing in state departments for years. They founded newspapers, journals and Tv channels in Turkey and outside.


When I started to work in a bussiness NGO in the 1990s, I had the opportunity to observe the movement from the outside. They used to display the same kind of behavior that they did in the university. They used to have their own agenda, for example it was not possible to engage in a close relationship between their activities and Musiad. In 1995, during the elections of Istanbul Chamber of Commerce in which as Musiad we had a great interest, many of businessmEn connected to the Service Movement did not join our organization. Even in some lists, they took joint action with our contesting groups. We didn't use to understand these kind of strange behaviors of those businessmen whom we knew well and we used to feel very sorry for this situation. In that period, I was dealing with the publications and I wrote an article to express my feeling of disappointment, giving an anecdote from İsmet Özel's book ¨Waldo, why are not you here?¨:

¨Henry Thoreau was sent to the jail for a night because he had refused to pay the tax that was placed on each person during the imperialist war that America carried out against Mexico with the justification that ¨he didn't want his money to be used in order to buy men or armament in order to kill a man.¨ His friend Ralph Waldo Emerson who was 14 years older than him and also who shared many libertarian thoughts with him came to see him in a hurry. In the Henry's cell, they had a conversation as:

-Henry, why are you here?¨

-¨Waldo, why are not you here?¨

Those friends whom we regard as our friends were the Waldos of that time and they had left us alone. Afterwards, in the period of 28th February, we witnessed similar kind of behaviors with sorrow. When there were headscarf problems in the universities in the country, they behaved in the same way.

Even if I didn't have a structural contact with them, I was carefully watching their work. I was appreciating their effort to teach children some principles of religion in foreign countries. They were making self sacrifices individually and as a group. But their method, their way of education and that they haven't come together with other Muslims have displeased me much. In my own way, I was accounting for their attitudes so: There were various schools in Muslim community, unfortunately there was not any mechanism to turn all of them into the same way. After the abolution of caliphate, we lost the opportunity to gather Muslims under the same flag. Even if I didn't appreciate their attitudes and I didn't act with them, I have always thought to leave them to their own activities and I was taking a stand to let them alone. I didn't approve the attitude of criticizing them recklessly and blocking their activities.

I was advising to people around me:¨Get out of them, don't intervene with them, but for the activities that we carry out, don't make them decision makers.¨



During Ak Party government, the government and the service movement became close to each other. The government regarded their staffing acts in some ministries and foundations as an internal movement and for long time they remained in friendly terms. Some significant security operations were carried out together with them. The service movement entered to politics at a scale that has never been seen before.

That 'Community Pride¨ and ¨depreciatory attitude¨ towards other Islamic groups and activities which has always been there since the early periods of movement became more apparent day by day. As their power in Turkey and in abroad increases, I have realized that they are coming to the point that Fethullah Gülen mentioned us in 1986. Taking the road with the intention of ¨taking advantage of the system's idiocy¨, Fethullah Gülen applied this method in the international arena and gained so much ground in it.

Of course, while they were trying to take the advantage of the system's idiocy, it was inevitable for them to be taken advantage of. In such kind of great games, it is always a possibility to ¨be a hunt when trying to be a hunter¨.

As they get bigger quantitatively and their worths that can be lost increased, this movement has moved away from its starting point and turned to a different style.

In the early days, in their journals, ¨Fountain¨, they were debating religious permissibility of printing human photos. They had solved this problem by putting lines on human photos. Later on they paid no attention on these issues. In the early sermons of Gulen was very rigid about women's being covered, but later on he openly regarded headscarf as a "nonessential" part of religion. We have heard that he advised his followers to pray through their glances, even not to pray or drink alcohol in order to rise in state bureucracy if it is necessary. Later, we saw in some examples how far this deviation went.

Fethullah Gülen movement started to remain at bay with the AK Party government since 2011. Of course the government was at bay with them even it was not very openly. We all have seen the developments after then.

The important role that the AK Party government and especially the President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan have played in the country and in the international arena, reducing the area of great powers, brought Fethullah Gülen movement closer to these great powers. At that point Tayyip Erdoğan became an enemy of Fethullah Gülen and his community. That they used the definition of ¨tall man¨ for a leader whom almost half of the Turkey's population supported showed how far they distanced themselves from people.

This drift became thoroughly visible especially in the period of 17-25 December. And after then Gulen and his followers became the leading actor of a ferocious coup attempt. A community that has claimed to help people to live a more peaceful and a more appropriate life for God's consent, and worked for this aim for more than 40 years, at the end came to a position to attack to same people whom they wanted to give a more peaceful life with tanks, with guns and with war planes.

Today this movement that turned to be a Terrorist Organization of Fetullah (FETÖ) caused many people whom it spent decades to educate to perish. It turned to be a an organization which is dammed by millions of people in Turkey and abroad who haven't yet spoken against it even if they are very angry at it.

At this point, I would like to ask a vital question:

Were Fethullah Gülen and his community a project from a to z built by foreign powers since its start?

Or did it start its way with purer intentions but over time became a toy of powers of whose idiocy it wanted to take advantage and simply became a trojan horse?

To me, sound answers that will be given to these question will make it possible for us to handle the matter truer and to be able to reach more reasonable conclusions. Personally I am closer to the second choice, but I think those people who defend the other view also have strong arguments.


It doesn't matter which choice we accept, today the point where have come is an inevitable point with regard to its conclusions and this community is not a community anymore but an armed terrorist organization. The example of German tanks that sank into the marsh which Fethullah Gülen explained in his "Golden Generation" 40 years ago turned into tanks that opened fire to public as an irony of fate after 40 years.

The bureaucratic mechanisms that he he sought to fill for years now are being cleaned from his followers. I hope that the staff to replace these people would be well-trained. It is Fethullah Gulen and his close followers' responsibility that people consider FETO followers and those who somehow touched them stricken with plague. After this time, it is not possible (justifiably) for people to rely on his followers. Because that it is understood that hypocrisy(takıyye) principle which he enforced his followers to apply under the name of precaution became a lifestyle.

These days will be remembered as very important and very sorrowful days in the memories of Muslims in Turkey. Inshallah it could be possible to draw lessons. It is a responsibility on us to make serious analyses of these kind of structures as FETO in Turkey, ISIS in the Middle East, Boko Haram in Africa. May God protect all of us from such kind of cabals and may help us to draw lesson from our experiences.




Güncelleme Tarihi: 03 Ağustos 2016, 11:28