Who is Fetullah Gulen?

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Chronological Biography of Fetullah Gulen

1941 – Born in Pasinler village, Erzurum. However, Gulen claims that he was born in the symbolic year of 1938 in which Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of Turkey, died. Gulen sought to demonstrate that his claimed date of birth was evidence of a divine mission to save Turkey from secularism.

Fetullah Gulen as a teenager
Fetullah Gulen as a teenager

1957 – Began organizing religious meetings in Erzurum and nearby provinces. It was during this period that Gulen became acquainted with the works of Said Nursi.

1959 – Became an official state preacher at a mosque in the north-western province of Edirne. It was here that Gulen first began to gather a group of followers.

1962 – While performing his military service, Gulen continued to preach in mosques.

1963 – Founder of Erzurum branch of the Association to Combat Communism, a body allegedly linked with foreign intelligence services.

1967 – Appointed as a preacher in the western metropolis of Izmir. Gulen also preached in the surrounding regions. Izmir was to serve as Gulen’s organizational base for the next twenty years.

Gulen in the 1990s (the second on the left)
Gulen in the 1990s (standing the second on the left)

1970 – The number of secret safe houses, referred to as ‘Houses of Light,’ reached double figures. To guarantee discipline in the houses, Gulen distributed a set of rules, the first of which was that obedience was expected towards Gulen personally. ‘Houses of Light’ were the most basic form of organization.

Fetullah Gulen while giving a speech in a coffee house
Fetullah Gulen speaking in a coffee-house

1972 – The first student dormitory was built by Gulen followers. Dormitories became a crucial center for the movement to recruit and indoctrinate followers.

1975-76 –Gulen gave a number of conferences throughout Turkey with the intention of increasing his audience. These include conferences entitled “The Quran and Science in Anatolia,” “Darwinism”, “The Golden Generation” and “Societal Justice and Prophecy.”

1977 – Again with the intention of increasing his audience, Gulen delivers conferences abroad in numerous German cities including Berlin, Frankfurt, Hannover, Hamburg and Munich.

1979 – Established Sizinti magazine. Sizinti would become the main propaganda tool of the movement to propagate Gulen’s messages to his followers.

Sizinti's first issue published
Sizinti’s first issue published in 1979

1981 – Gulen resigned from his official post as preacher. Gulen instead preached all around the country again with the intention of increasing the number of his followers.

1987 –Gulen succeeded in taking over the Zaman daily which would later become the movement’s flagship media outlet. This was followed by the establishment of Saman Yolu TV in 1993, and the Cihan News Agency in 1994.

1989 – Again with the intention of increasing his audience, Gulen embarked on a speaking tour in the largest mosques in Turkey’s metropolises.

1992 – Gulen opened schools abroad, beginning in the former Soviet Republics. The Nakhchivan Turkish High School in Azerbaijan was the first. Between the years 1992-1994, 29 schools were established by Gulen in Kazakhstan.

1996 – Gulen had a meeting with the Greek Orthodox Patriarch in Istanbul to launch his campaign of ‘dialogue between faiths.’

1996 – Gulen opened his first university, Fatih University in Istanbul. Several senior politicians including President Suleyman Demirel, opposition party leader Alparslan Turkes and business people participated in the opening ceremony.

Suleyman Demirel and Fetullah Gulen at the opening ceremony of Fatih University
Suleyman Demirel and Fetullah Gulen at the opening ceremony of Fatih University

1997 – Gulen expressed support for the 1997 military intervention.

1997 – While in the United States for medical treatment, Gulen met with Anti-Defamation League chairperson Abraham H. Foxman.

Fethullah Gulen and Abraham Foxman
Fethullah Gulen and Abraham Foxman

1998 – Gulen met Pope John Paul II on the topic of ‘dialogue between faiths,’ allegedly with the assistance of former US ambassador to Turkey Morton Abromowitz.

Gulen and Papa John Paul II
Gulen and Papa John Paul II

1999 – Gulen moved to the United States supposedly to receive medical treatment for diabetes. His green card application was supported by former senior CIA official Graham E. Fuller and former US ambassador to Turkey Morton Abromowitz.

2000 – Prosecutors in Turkey launched an investigation into Gulen due to a video surfacing in which he stated:

“You must move in the arteries of the system without anyone noticing your existence until you reach all the power centers…You must wait for the time when you are complete and conditions are ripe, until we can shoulder the entire world and carry it…You must wait until such time as you have gotten all the state power…in Turkey…Until that time, any step taken would be too early—like breaking an egg without waiting the full forty days for it to hatch.”

2003 – Gulen launched the Turkish Olympics, a competition of students from FETO-linked schools around the world, as a major public relations tool for the movement.

2007 – Gulen’s followers within the state bureaucracy manipulated the Ergenekon trials in an attempt to purge their opponents.

2008 – Foreign Policy magazine selects Gulen as one the most globally influential intellectuals. Gulen was likewise selected by Time in 2013.

2008 – In a video dated 2008, Gulen said:

“Both those who are encouraged and those institutions belong to this country. Those who are not part of the Turkish nation had succeeded in the past of infiltrating the state. Maybe they were worried that their infiltration would be uncovered. It is a right for a true member of the nation to infiltrate institutions such as the public service, judiciary, intelligence services and foreign ministry.”

2012 – In February, Gulen’s followers within the state bureaucracy attempted to question Hakan Fidan, the head of Turkey’s National Intelligence Service.

2013 – Gulen’s followers within the state bureaucracy attempt to overthrow the incumbent Justice and Development Party (AKP) government with allegations of a corruption scandal.

FETO aligned prosecutors Celal Kara, Mehmet Yuzgec and Zekeriya Oz
FETO aligned prosecutors Celal Kara, Mehmet Yuzgec and Zekeriya Oz

2013 – In a sermon Gulen openly threatened the government – “destroy their unity, burn their houses and exterminate them.”

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Gulen casts a curse

2014 – Soldiers who were later discovered to be aligned with Gulen stopped a convoy trucks carrying aid to Syria, photographed the contents, and released these photographs to the press with the claim that the Turkish government was arming al-Qaeda affiliates.

2014 – Turkey’s National Security Council officially designated organizations connected to Gulen as constituting a ‘parallel state’ which engages in illegal activity under a veneer of legality.

2016 – The Gulenist cult was declared a terrorist organization by the Turkish government following a National Security Council Meeting on 26 May.

2016 – Soldiers aligned with Gulen launched an attempted coup against the Turkish government on 15 July.

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