Think-Thanks and Cultural Organizations
The Journalists and Writers Foundation was established in Istanbul in 1994 as a nongovernmental organization. Fetullah Gulen was the founding member and has served as the honorary President since then. Its aim is written as follows: “promotion of peaceful coexistence through dialogue and understanding at global, regional and local levels”.
The JWF operates in many countries around the world including Azerbaijan, Belarus, Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, the Russian Federation, and Ukraine. Its branch in Turkey was shut down on 23 July 2016 within the scope of 15 July coup investigation. The investigation continues. The JWF carries out its activities through five platforms: the Abant Platform, the Intercultural Dialogue Platform, the Medialog Platform, the Women’s Platform, and the Dialogue Eurasia Platform. JWF was granted general consultative status with the United nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in 2012.
An article in the Times published on 1 August 2016 revealed that the Journalists and Writers Foundation paid £ 115,994 to Sir Edward Garnier, a Conservative MP, to get him co-research and author a document titled A Report on the Rule of Law and Respect for Human Rights in Turkey.
The report written by Sir Edward was promoted by the London-based public relations company Hawthorn, which offers “reputation management.” Copies of the report were sent to prominent figures in British politics, including then-Prime Minister David Cameron and his then-Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond.
Sir Edward did not reveal that the report was commissioned by an organisation linked to Fetullah Gulen even though the Gulenist cult had been listed as a terrorist organization in Turkey.
“The JWF is the primary public face of the Gulen movement,” said Joshua Hendrick, author of a book on Fetullah Gulen. “They have a very strategic and long history, in Turkey and the world, of peddling favour from influential people, including elected officials, journalists and other leaders.”
The Alliance for Shared Values is a so-called umbrella organization that comprises several Gulen-linked groups in the US. There is a detailed section devoted to the cult leader Fetullah Gulen on its website. Gulen’s video-messages are also shared through the website.
An article published in 2016 revealed that the group spent thousands of dollars and hired the Podesta Group, a lobbying firm, to lobby Congress on its behalf. The groups’ executive director Alp Aslandogan also donated to political campaigns according to campaign finance records. It is been documented that Gulenists try to gain favour with politicians in the United States through donations made by Gulen-linked non-profits.
The Atlantic Institute is another Gulen-linked non-profit organization located in the Southeastern United States. Its headquarters is in Atlanta, but has branches in Florida, Alabama, Tennessee and South Carolina. The Atlantic Institute funds trips to Turkey.
The Rumi Forum was founded in 1999. The honorary President is Fetullah Gulen and special sections on the website are dedicated to Gulen’s personal life. The headquarters is located in Washington, DC, with local branches in Maryland, Kentucky, Delaware, North Carolina and Virginia. It organizes fully-funded international trips for students and academics.
The Pacifica Institute another organization under the Alliance for Shared Values funded 13 lawmakers’ trips to Turkey in 2011. Likewise, a USA Today article revealed that in August 2013, Rep. Mike Honda took an eight-day trip to Turkey sponsored by the Pacifica Institute, which claimed on congressional disclosure forms to be an IRS-recognized non-profit covering the $5,700 cost of the trip. But the IRS has no record of Pacifica being a recognized non-profit.
The Dialogue Institute of the Southwest‘s headquarters is in Texas, and has 13 chapters throughout the US. It organizes funded “cultural exchange trips”. The Dialogue Institute sponsored two groups of travellers in 2008. One group was from Austin’s University Presbyterian Church and the second group included State Rep. Valinda Bolton and Bolton’s husband, Associate Judge Andy Hathcock, and Travis County Constable Bruce Elfant and his wife, Lisa Harris. The trip, which included eight days of sightseeing and visiting with host families, included stops in Istanbul and Izmir, as well as the Turkish capital of Ankara; Austin’s next sister city, Antalya; and Sanliurfa.
The Niagara Foundation is headquartered in Chicago. There is a special section on the website dedicated to Fetullah Gulen who has served as the honorary president of the foundation since 2004. The foundation organizes Turkey trips. For example, the foundation sponsored the trips of twenty students, faculty, board members, and administrators from Rochester College in March 2012.
Likewise, the Niagara Foundation sponsored the trips of 24 professors and classroom teachers. Niagara funded the airfare from New York City to Istanbul; local transport in Turkey, including to Ankara, Iznik, and the return to Istanbul; the lodging while in Turkey; the meals; entrance to museums and historic sites; and other miscellaneous costs which arose on the trip.
The Peace Islands Institute is headquartered in New York with five chapters in the US. Fetullah Gulen serves as the honorary president. In 2010, the Institute sent an invitation letter for a sponsored Turkey trip to New Jersey mayors on behalf of Interfaith Dialog Center, which is renamed as the Peace Island Institute.Institute.
The Raindrop Turkish House was founded by Turkish-Americans in Houston, Texas in 2000. It serves as the hub of Gulenist cultural activities in the US. It operates in six states: Texas, Arkansas, Kansas, Mississippi, New Mexico and Oklahoma. It sponsors trips to Turkey.
The Turquoise Center was established in 2008 through donations from Gulen followers. The money goes “to pay for a student’s scholarship, to provide start-up capital for a new school, to send a group of influential Americans on a two-week trip to Turkey or to sponsor an academic conference devoted to Fetullah Gulen,” according to Dr Joshua Hendrick.
The Institute of Interfaith Dialog is located in the Turquoise Center. It was founded by Fetullah Gulen himself according to court documents. It sponsors lectures on interfaith relations and finances the Gulen Institute at the University of Houston.
Apart from think tanks, there are also charities established by Gulenists. Kimse Yok mu? (Is Anybody There?) is an international humanitarian aid and development organization based in Turkey with 31 branches throughout the country which also provides humanitarian relief in over 113 countries.
A report issued after an inspection by the Interior Ministry revealed certain infractions of the Gulen-affiliated charity Kimse Yok mu? According to the report the charity did not register donations in its bank account and took donations abroad without the knowledge of related government institutions. The report said that the foundation held a donation campaign for a needy citizen and collected 30,000 TL, but did not give the donation to the citizen.
Based on this a cabinet decision banned the charity from collecting donations on 2 October 2014. It was shut down in July 2016 over accusations of laundering money for the Gulenist group. The group was also accused of diverting Kimse Yok Mu? funds to political donations in the United States where the cult’s leader Fetullah Gulen resides.
Another Gulen-affiliated charity, Helping Hand for Relief and Development, was founded in 2005. It “responds to human sufferings in emergency and disaster situations around the world.”Its headquarters is in Michigan, and has 15 chapters throughout the US.