Would you believe that the second largest charter school company in America, that has received $2.1 billion in taxpayer money, is run by a known radical Islamic terrorist and is protected by his powerful lobbying of U.S. politicians?
Would you believe that this group, Hizmet, has been indicted and convicted of many crimes and yet still operates and launders U. S. tax dollars to terrorist organizations?
Hizmet is Fethullah Gulen’s educational cult that has made massive donations to U.S. politicians and has hijacked the U. S. charter school movement with his 167 “public” charter schools.
Here is a short list of crimes that Gulen’s Hizmet (FETO- Fethullahci Teror Orgutu) U. S. charter schools have been convicted of:
- Gulen charter schools in four states are under FBI probesfor fraud, forgery of documents, unlawful profits and irregularities.
- Three charter schools in California, operating under the name Magnolia, could be shut down for bringing unqualified teachers from Turkey using temporary work visas.
- Magnolia schools also engaged in poor financial management and inconsistent and incorrect internal policies.
- Magnolia was accused of fraud and financial malfeasanceworth over $18 million.
- Hizmet charged with fraudulent relations with the North American University, another alleged Hizmet institution.
- Concept Schools (Hizmet) fraudulently funneled $5 million from federal grants to Gulenists with which they had “close ties.”
- Money laundering and fraud.
- Failed yearly audits.
- Periodic insolvency.
- Excessive funds spent on immigration for unqualified male Turkish teachers.
- Misappropriation of public funds.
- Inappropriate commingling funds.
- Funneled public funds from schools to shell entities.
- Widespread abuse and fraud of the H1B visa program.
- Discrimination against non-Muslim students and families.
- Use of fake lotteries for enrollment.
- Segregating girls from boys and mandatory hijabs for all females.
- Loose internal controls.
- Cheating on standardized tests.
- Lying about student data concerning college attendance.
- Bullying Jewish and non-Muslim students.
- Discrimination against students with special needs.
- Kickbacks to Turkish companies.
Fifteen Hizmet schools have been closed or transferred to new owners, with no connection to Gulen’s movement since 2010. In at least eleven of those cases — including in Georgia, California, Pennsylvania and Ohio – the management firms or individual schools themselves had faced official investigations.
In addition to the schools, followers run a loosely affiliated collection of businesses, civic associations and charities. Some Turkish-American-owned contractors who do business with the schools have been targeted in state and federal investigations over allegations they received preferential treatment.
A series of bond sales have totaled $683 million since 2006 that have benefited four Hizmet schools.
Federal records show Turkey’s lawyers requested meetings in January 2018 with politicians in 26 states and the District of Columbia, including attorney generals, influential legislators, and at least one governor — Michigan’s Rick Snyder. The legal team has already sat down with an official in the Arizona attorney general’s office, worked on legislation in Texas, and attended school board meetings in California, Louisiana and Massachusetts.
The Takeover of U. S. Charter Schools
Today, there are more than 7,000 charter schools with about 3 million students (total enrollment in public schools is 50 million). Charters are more segregated than public schools, prompting the Civil Rights Project at UCLA in 2010 to call charter schools “a major political success” but “a civil rights failure.”
The charter universe includes corporate chains that operate hundreds of schools in different states. The-second-largest has 167 schools and is affiliated with Turkish preacher Fethullah Gulen.
There are 150 charter schools affiliated with the Gulenists in the U.S. The charter schools in four states are under FBI probes for fraud and forgery of documents, unlawful profits and irregularity. Most schools linked to Fetullah Gulen are located in the states of Texas, Ohio and California (see table below to see exact numbers per state). These schools generate about $500 million in revenue per year.
Los Angeles Times wrote on 12 October 2016 that three charter schools in California operating under the name Magnolia could be shut down for bringing teachers from Turkey using temporary work visas. Magnolia schools engaged in “poor financial management and inconsistent or incorrect internal policies,” according to the newspaper. President of the board of directors of Magnolia Schools, Umit Yapanel, admitted he was a Gulen follower in an interview he gave to the LA Times on 31 August 2016.
According to Amsterdam & Partners LLP, a law firm that investigates the FETO charter school network in the U.S., “the Gulen-affiliated Harmony Public Schools have been allegedly engaging in widespread abuse of the H1B visa program, misappropriation of public funds, and discrimination against certain students and families.” A former Harmony student said she was bullied by a teacher after some teachers learned that the student was Jewish. A former teacher from Harmony explained (see Vimeo video below) with a video clip she recorded that students with special needs were discriminated against by teachers.
Furthermore, the school was “accused of fraud and financial malfeasance worth over $18 million.” The complaint filed by Amsterdam & Partners LLP against Harmony Public Schools put forward that the fraud in question rested on the fact that a company dubbed Charter School Solutions contracted by Harmony to manage its buildings and properties was in fact run by a Harmony employee.
Another controversial aspect of Harmony schools, which brags about a “100 percent” college acceptance rate, is its surreptitious relations with the North American University, yet another alleged Hizmet (FETO) institution. A Washington Post article indicated that “a sizable number of Harmony graduates are accepted to the North American University” which did not comply with “its own admissions standards” and had “deep financial and governance ties” to Harmony schools.
In a news story based on court records, Concept Schools, another charter school chain linked to Hizmet, were “suspected of involvement in a $5 million fraud operation over accusations that they funneled the money from federal grants to Gulenists.” Just as Harmony, Concept Schools were also accused of engaging in financial activity with companies with which they had “close ties.”
Gulen’s network of charter schools were featured on a recent segment aired by VICE News on HBO on January 18, 2018. The segment featured an interview with international lawyer Robert Amsterdam, who acts on behalf of the Republic of Turkey and who recently published a 600+ page book on the Gulen charter schools titled Empire of Deceit.
Amsterdam says he is continuing the investigation with an upcoming second book, commenting, “the Gulen organization and the movement are a danger to the national security of the United States.”
“Turkish teachers came in every year, they were not certified, they were not very strong with their English language skills, so a lot of times the kids would struggle,” said Patrick McGowan, a whistleblower and former teacher at the school interviewed by VICE News. “It’s almost like a Turkish mafia runs the school.”
Another former human resource manager at the Syracuse school explains that in order to meet state requirements and get more public funding, the school would falsify academic records: “The first time I actually witnessed this type of cheating it came from the teacher, and that teacher showed me the documents of grades being changed on students’ report cards,” the whistleblower said in the interview.
Parents and students interviewed by VICE News were also outraged by the subpar quality of education at the Gulen schools. Gwendolyn Muok, whose daughter attended the Syracuse Academy of Science, says “I think the goal of the school is to get the taxpayer dollars to help fund their movement. And our kids our paying the price for it.”
Recently, the alleged abusive conduct of the Gulen schools has attracted attention of civil rights groups. In November 2017, the California chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) passed a resolution demanding investigations into this organization. But in many other states, politicians have been hesitant to act because of the lobbying strength and pervasive political contributions of Gulenists.
“Gulen and his PR people have been extraordinarily effective at deflecting the conversation,” Amsterdam said to VICE, explaining how the organization has managed to escape accountability. “Even Gulen’s representative interviewed in the segment had no answers, no specific factual disagreements with the public record evidence published in Empire of Deceit,” Amsterdam says.
“This book is about the unregulated nature of a very dangerous cult in the United States,” says Amsterdam, “and that’s what matters.”
Empire of Deceit is available as a free download at www.empireofdeceit.com
FBI Investigations and Charges
The FBI has investigated Concept Schools, which operate 16 Horizon Science Academies across Ohio, on the suspicion that they illegally used taxpayer money to pay immigration and legal fees for people they never even employed, an Ohio ABC affiliate discovered. The FBI’s suspicion was confirmed by state auditors. Concept Schools repaid the fees for their Cleveland and Toledo schools shortly before the story broke, but it’s unclear whether they have repaid—or can repay—the fees for their other schools.
In December 2013, the FBI raided another Gulen-linked charter school, Kenilworth Science and Technology Charter School, located in Louisiana. The investigation, initially for tax-related purposes, led to the discovery of a business link between the school and Harmony Public Schools, another Gulen-linked charter school district based in Texas that makes up the state’s largest charter operator.
Two schools, located in Texas, have been accused of sending school funds—which are supplied by the government—to Gulen-inspired organizations. Last year, The New York Times reported that some schools were funneling some $50 million in public funds to a network of Turkish construction companies.
Utah’s Beehive Science and Technology Academy was $337,000 in debt, according to a financial probe by the Utah Schools Charter Board. The Deseret News tried to figure out where all this taxpayer money had gone. “In a time of teacher layoffs, Beehive has recruited a high percentage of teachers from overseas, mainly Turkey,” the newspaper reported. “Many of these teachers had little or no teaching experience before they came to the United States. Some of them are still not certified to teach in Utah. The school spent more than $53,000 on immigration fees for foreigners in five years. During the same time, administrators spent less than $100,000 on textbooks, according to state records.” Reports have also claimed that the school board was almost entirely Turkish.
In August 2016, former head of the American Federation of Teachers’ Strategic Campaign Department Gene Bruskin wrote an article for AlterNet arguing that the Gulen movement’s charter school network “severely tested” the American model of a secular state, due to what he sees as the missionary nature of the Gulen movement and the way the Gulen schools often played down their links to the movement. He also asserted that publicly-available teacher rosters and labor condition applications for the Turkish teachers frequently employed in the Gulen schools illustrated that American teachers employed by the schools were often paid less than their Turkish counterparts.
Who is Fethullah Gulen?
Over the past two decades, Gulen’s Turkish followers have opened taxpayer-funded charter schools in the U.S. Some parents have expressed concern about the connection to the Gulen movement. The FBI is investigating whether Gulen’s followers have skimmed money from those schools in order to fund his movement internationally. A senior State Department official believes Gulen-linked charities and educational institutions in the U.S. look “a lot like the ways in which organized crime sets itself up… to hide money for money laundering.”
Turkish President Recep Erdogan accuses Gulen of being behind a bloody coup attempt. Gulen lives in the United States but Turkey is lobbying the U. S. government to extradite Gulen back to Turkey. Gulen, who the Turkish government blames for inciting the coup attempt, has lived in a Pennsylvania compound for 16 years.
Gulen’s followers run publicly-funded science and math-focus charter schools in the United States. They’ve opened 136 charter schools in 28 states, operating on more than $2.1 billion taxpayer dollars since 2010. But former teachers at those schools have said it is a scheme by Gulen’s followers in the U.S. to take advantage of the American charter school system and fund Gulen’s movement.
Ersin Konkur was once a follower of Gulen. He worked as a math teacher at schools founded by Gulen supporters in New York and Texas. But he said school officials made a special demand of the teachers who worked there: a kick-back from their taxpayer-funded salary.
“They’d force you to give some of that money back to them?” CBS News correspondent Margaret Brennan asked.
“Yes,” Konkur responded.
“Were you writing checks?”
“They were asking cash. But in my last two years, I paid some of them in check,” Konkur said, adding that he’s paid “maybe a lot more than $20,000” in total to the movement.
Mustafa Emanet was an IT administrator at a Gulen-inspired charter school in Ohio.
“How much money do you think you gave?” Brennan asked him.
“I was paying around 40 percent of my salary,” Emanet said.
Based on information provided by Emanet, federal investigators believe former officials at his Ohio school illegally paid themselves about $5 million in federal contracts and then sent those U.S. tax dollars to Bank Asya, a bank in Turkey linked to Gulen’s followers.
The charter schools that employed Konkur and Emanet strongly deny any official links to Gulen himself, but we found nearly all Gulen schools have ties to a network of non-profits, many of which lead back to Gulen or his top associates.
The International Gulen Movement
The international Gulen Movement schools are a network of private or semi-private schools founded by the members of Gulen’s Hizmet movement. In 2009, it was estimated that members of the Gulen movement ran schools that serve more than 2 million students, many with full scholarships. Estimates of the number of schools and educational institutions varied widely, with about 300 schools in Turkey and over 1,000 schools worldwide.
Prior to the 2016 Turkish coup d’état attempt, there were many Gulen schools in Turkey. The schools were all subsequently banned by law, as were other Gulen schools in countries with large Turkish populations.
All of Gulen’s schools outside of Turkey offer Turkish as either a mandatory or elective foreign language. The greatest majority of the teachers are drawn from members of the Gulen network, who reportedly encourage students in the direction of greater Muslim piety.
In April 2009, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty published a piece about the Gulen schools in Central Asia stating the “Turkish educational institutions have come under increasing scrutiny. Governments as well as many scholars and journalists suspect that the schools have more than just education on their agendas.” The article quoted Hakan Yavuz, a Turkish professor of political science at the University of Utah, as calling the Gulen movement:
“A political movement that has always been political. They want to train an elitist class that will then turn Turkey into a center of the religious World, Islamise the country. It is the most powerful movement right now in Turkey and there is no other movement to balance them in society.”
There are many allegations about money-laundering, kickbacks, investigations, and raids concerning Hizmet schools founded or operated by Gulen followers.
The Gulen Turkish Mafia
Essentially Gulen’s educational cult, Hizmet, has made a massive investment in U.S. politicians and has hijacked the U. S. charter school movement quite effectively. Hizmet operates in the U.S. through various nonprofits, most of which are organized under the umbrella of the New York-based Alliance for Shared Values. Yuksel Alp Aslandogan, the Alliance’s executive director, is also Gulen’s aide and translator.
Hizmet inspired school are technically not part of the Alliance. “These schools were established by Hizmet sympathizers,” Aslandogan acknowledged, although they regularly deny institutional links to Gulen’s movement. “Without an exception, all of the Hizmet-associated institutions have been shut down by Erdogan, including 35 hospitals, 15 universities, and 500 K-12 schools,” he said.
Morocco has closed its Hizmet schools, while Afghanistan and Ethiopia have turned theirs over to a foundation run by the Turkish government.
Today, Gulen’s schools established by Hizmet sympathizers can be found in at least 100 countries. But only in the U.S. are they funded with public money.
Austin, Texas attorney and independent filmmaker Mark Hall produced the 2016 documentary, Killing Ed, which claims corruption, discrimination, and academic fraud are commonplace at Harmony and other Gulen-linked charters.
“There’s no document with Fethullah Gulen’s signature on it that establishes a charter school in California or Texas or Ohio or wherever,” Hall noted. “So, a lot of people in the Gülen movement itself have said, ‘We have no formal, legalistic connection between Harmony and Fethullah Gulen.’ And that probably is not true.”
An investigation found that ten Texas state lawmakers, along with 141 of their colleagues from other states, took trips to Turkey between 2006 and 2015 that were funded in part by Hizmet nonprofits like Houston’s Raindrop Turkish House and the Dialogue Institute.
In January 2011, the Texas Senate adopted a resolution to “commend Fethullah Gulen for his dedication to working toward a better world through education, service, tolerance, and the free exchange of ideas and extend to him best wishes for continued success.” At least three of its five co-sponsors—two Democrats and a Republican—had taken Hizmet trips.
There can be only one sensible conclusion concerning Gulen schools that any U. S. citizen will arrive at after hearing the information presented above:
All Gulen related schools and organizations in America must be closed immediately and Fethullah Gulen must be recognized as an enemy of America and prosecuted as such to the full extent of the law.
Fetullah Gulen, whose Gulenist Terror Group (FETO-Hizmet) is blamed for Turkey’s foiled coup attempt in Turkey and various other crimes, is the “special guest” of a retreat run by the Golden Generation Foundation, an offshoot of his sprawling empire spanning companies and schools all across the globe. The Golden Generation Worship and Retreat Center, established in a 100-acre land in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania is the place where Gulen has lived since he traveled to the United States for “treatment” in 1999.
The Golden Generation acquired nonprofit organization status in 1994 in the United States and was a little-known organization until the FETO leader employed its services for his lengthy stay. It’s reported revenue in 2015 was $5.2 million.
The rapid rise in revenues coincides with Turkey’s crackdown on the terrorist group after it was designated a national security threat in 2014. A barrage of trials followed and authorities issued arrest warrants for hundreds of people. The arrest warrants raised over time and considerably increased after the coup attempt that killed 248 people across Turkey.
It is suspected that donations to the foundation rose in an attempt to support the lives of fugitive FETO members who seek to be close to GUlen, a revered cult figure they are devoted to. Turkish media outlets recently reported that FETO members acquired properties near the retreat and plan to build houses for fugitive members.
The Golden Generation is run by Joseph A. Polat, Huseyin Copur and Sezai Sablak. Sablak is currently on trial for membership in a terrorist organization and financing terrorism in Turkey. The trial is about The Respect Institute, another FETO-linked organization, and Sablak serves as vice president of the institute, which is also known for its donations to Democrats, including former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
An investigation into The Respect Institute has revealed that some 147 people from Turkey, all FETO suspects, donated more than $2 million in total to the institute between 2013 and 2014. Sablak also runs several companies which are apparently front companies as their phone numbers are the same as the numbers of the retreat.
The Golden Generation is only one of the numerous nonprofit organizations and private companies linked to FETO in the United States. Gulenists run a vast network of schools around the globe, but are primarily invested in charter schools in the United States. The schools receive government funding but operate independent of the public school system. Dozens of schools associated with FETO are facing criticism and are under investigation over the alleged misuse of federal grants and the abuse of a visa scheme being used to funnel foreign teachers into charter schools who are brought from Turkey to live in the United States.
FETO is also called Hizmet (Service). In May 2016, the Turkish government declared the organization a terrorist organization and gave it the name Fetullah Gulen Terror Organisation (FETO). It is now a matter of public knowledge that followers of Gulen infiltrated state institutions and tried to overthrow the democratically elected government of Turkey in December 2013.
Gulen established the cult starting from the 1970s in Turkey and then it became international in the 1990s. Today the cult has an extensive network throughout the world. They have national and international educational centers, non-govermental organizations, television channels, hospitals, even a bank and several insurance companies belonging to the movement.
Fetullah Gulen received an Islamic education in a madrasah and memorized the Quran at the age of 10. He was appointed as the main Imam in the city of Izmir in 1966. He was arrested in 1971 and charged with reactionary activities. When he was released, he worked as an Imam in various cities. In 1979, he started to write editorials for the monthly Sizinti (Fountain) magazine, published by his followers.
The emergence and evolution of his movement corresponded to the funds collected from his followers (tithes) and articles distributed across the nation. The movement, also called Hizmet, established its own educational institutions, media outlets, non-governmental organizations, banks, insurance companies and business associations in the following years until the movement was accused of infiltrating important state institutions such as education, the judiciary, the police, security forces, and the military.
The primary unit of the cult, called Houses of Light, was founded in Izmir by Gulen himself through funds collected from the community attending the mosque at which he worked. Students were permitted to stay in these houses on the condition that they followed a number of written rules determined personally by Gulen. In 1970, the number of these houses had already risen to 12.
The first school, Yamanlar High School, was founded in 1982, the first newspaper Zaman was taken over in 1986, the first international school was established in Azerbaijan in 1991, the first TV channel Samanyolu TV started broadcasting in 1993. A year later Cihan News Agency was added to the newly blossoming Gulenist network. The following years witnessed the large expansion of the network.
Gulen’s Media Kingdom
Media is seen “an essential and inevitable tool for the Gulen movement to reach out to larger society.” Gulen encouraged his followers to engage in publishing as a way of spreading the message of the importance of education and service. Inspired by Gulen, his followers established a massive media network with TV and radio stations, newspapers, magazines, journals, news agencies and printing houses starting from 1979 with a monthly journal called Sizinti. It came out with an editorial written by Gulen himself.
In 1986, participants of Gulen’s cult bought Zaman newspaper. It was published in multiple languages in 35 countries with the purpose of being “the voice of the unheard, weak and ignored.” However, when the archive of the newspaper is examined, it is possible to see racist and discriminative news stories particularly against Christians and Armenians at the beginning of the 1990s.
Zaman started to publish in the English language with the name Today’s Zaman on 16 January 2007. However, the English version was often significantly different from the Turkish one. A journalist, Claire Berlinski, explains in an article that “remarks about enemies of Islam, perfidious Armenians, and Mossad plots are edited out of the English version, as are other comments that sound incompatible with the message of intercultural tolerance”. She gives the example of Gulen’s criticism of the government over the Kurdish issue, in which the English version omitted Gulen’s curse of Kurdish people:
“Knock their [Kurds’] homes upside down, destroy their unity, reduce their homes to ashes, may their homes be filled with weeping and supplications, burn and cut off their roots, and bring their affairs to an end.”
Likewise, Gulen’s rebuttal of his followers’ infiltration to state institutions was published in Today’s Zaman but some of the original quote was omitted:
“To urge fellow citizens to seek employment at state institutions is not called infiltration. Both the people urged and these institutions belong to the same country. . . . It is a right for them to be employed in state posts.”
After a magazine with editorials written by Gulen and a newspaper were published, the group set up a television channel called Samanyolu TV in 1993. By the late 1990s, the corporation already had offices in Azerbaijan, Germany and the U.S.
Dunya Radio went on air in 1993. In 1994, the group launched its own news agency Cihan. A year later, another radio station “Burc FM” started broadcasting. The 2000s marked the expansion of Gulen’s media empire with more television channels in different languages, broadcasting news, cartoons, sales, religious content, culture and entertainment. All channels belonged to the Samanyolu Broadcasting Company.
Mehtap TV started broadcasting in 2006. The shows included “Fetullah Gulen – Hercules Tunes”, “Hadith Reading”, and “Islam and Life”. Ebru TV, a cable TV network, was set up in the US by the Gulenist Samanyolu Broadcasting Company in the US in 2006. Its purpose was to introduce Turkish culture.
In 2007, Xəzər TV started broadcasting in Azerbaijan. In the same year, a channel for children went on air, becoming the first free public television channel. Dunya TV started broadcasting in Kurdish after it was founded in 2010. Tuna Shopping TV, with the motto “Safe Shopping,” started broadcasting in 2011. Irmak TV broadcast religious content like Fetullah Gulen’s sermons. Hira TV went on air in 2014 and broadcasted in Arabic. Some of the channels were taken over by the government within the scope of an investigation into the Gulenist group while others were shut down.
The media expansion continued with more magazines and journals, newspapers, news agencies, radio stations and publishing houses. In 1993, the Fountain magazine was started to be published bimonthly by Tughra Books (a Gulenist publishing house) in the US, and it was distributed throughout the world. It included articles by Fetullah Gulen. The magazine has its headquarter in Rutherford, New Jersey but has offices in Istanbul, Cairo, Kuala Lumpur, Moscow and Sydney.
Tughra Books is a Gulenist publishing house based in Clifton, New Jersey, US. It publishes books on Islam, Islamic history and art, Islamic spirituality and traditions. Gulen himself is a featured writer with ten books.
The Blue Dome is another Gulenist publishing house based in the US that focuses on academic works in the fields of interfaith dialogue, intercultural studies, philosophy, art, culture and history. There is a special category of books for Fetullah Gulen. Some of these books aim to introduce the Gulenist cult, others give information about Gulen himself.
Gulen’s Educational Empire
FETO (Hizmet) established many educational institutions both in Turkey and worldwide, including private schools and prep schools for university entrance exams, as well as student houses and dormitories. These served as centers for inculcating students with the organization’s propaganda, cultivating new members and generating a large circulation of money.
In Turkey, the followers of Gulen’s cult established 934 schools at various levels ranging from preschools to high schools, 15 universities in ten cities, and 109 private dormitories for university students. FETO established its first school, known as the “Yamanlar High School,” in the city of Izmir in 1982. Gulen was said to have a room of his own in the building before he fled to the US in 1999.
The educational institutions of FETO extended beyond the borders of Turkey with more than 2,000 charter schools in 160 countries. The first protocol was signed to open a Turkish high school in Azerbaijan’s Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic in 1991. Gulenists have a broad network in most countries in the Balkan region. The cult has been active especially in Albania and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
The activities of FETO in Albania dates back to 1993 when it established the Gulistan Foundation. A year later, the Sema Foundation was set up to run privatized Islamic education facilities. In the capital Tirana, it runs three schools and two major universities Epoka and Beder, and two elementary schools in cities of Shkodër and Durrës. The group also runs Albania’s preschool education institution called Meridian.
Schools affiliated with the Gulenists in Bosnia and Herzegovina include four preschools, five elementary schools and one university (the International Burch University) in capital Sarajevo. Likewise, the cult owns schools in Kosovo, Serbia and Montenegro along with education centers and foundation assisting to run the schools.
Germany and the UK are other countries where FETO has been active since the 1990s. There are 24 schools and several foundations to support these schools in Germany. The first FETO organization in the UK was Axis Educational Trust which operates a number of prep centers and a school. Axis Tuition Centers are a chain of prep schools with around 1,000 students in 15 different locations.
The Lighthouse Educational Society is another FETO-linked institution in south London with four branches in the Welling, Croydon, Harrow, and Tooting areas. The Amity Educational Foundation is based in east London, while Wisdom Primary and Secondary School is located in Tottenham in north London, where many Turks reside. These so-called education centers are supported through Gulen-affiliated foundations in the UK.
Gulen’s Banking Industry
Gulen’s cult, described as “civil movement based on tolerance, interfaith and intercultural dialogue”, was also engaged in finance through a bank, a number of affiliated insurance companies and a large business federation.
Gulenists’ engagement in finance started with Bank Asya on 24 October 1996 in Istanbul. It had 182 branches, 2 national and 1,300 foreign correspondent banks in addition to the head office units as of 2011. A probe into the bank revealed that the bank did not have a transparent partnership structure open enough to allow effective regulation. Therefore, the partnership rights were transferred to the Savings Deposit Insurance Fund (TMSF) in mid-2015.
Bank Asya had required 185 of its real and judicial shareholders to submit information and documents to prove that they meet the requirements applied for founders, but only 63 out of 185 shareholders presented the requested documents. One of the shareholders, a businessman called Hasan Sayin, explained that he was defrauded by Gulenists who used the funds for other purposes. He said in his testimony that a total of 30 million TL ($ 9.066 million) he transferred to a school in the United States was intended for the prosperity of his daughter and other female students studying there.
Further investigations into Bank Asya’s activities revealed that the bank engaged in money laundering for the Gulenist cult, and opened accounts in the name of children as young as 2-years-old to stash tens of millions of liras of the cult’s money. The accounts opened for 30 children aged between 2 to 8 contained more than 26 million TL ($ 8.235 million). On 22 July 2016, Bank Asya’s banking permission was cancelled by the Banking Regulation and Supervision Board (BDDK) in Turkey.
Bank Asya had subsidiaries including pension and insurance companies: Asya Pension Inc., Asya Investment Inc., Tuna Investment Inc., Isik Insurance Inc., Nil Real Estate and Management Inc, Asya Fin Insurance Inc, Asya Card Technology Inc.
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 world including Azerbaijan, Belarus, Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, the Russian Federation, and Ukraine.
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 organization linked to Fetullah Gulen even though the Gulenist cult had been listed as a terrorist organization in Turkey.
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 U.S.
Fetullah Gulen’s followers have carried out lobbying activities in many countries. They donated for election campaigns and financed all-expense-paid trips to Turkey. The target was mostly politicians through whom Gulenists aimed to extend their influence over decision making processes.
Gulenists have been actively lobbying in the United States. They have made political donations and funded trips for US lawmakers and university professors, students and etc. Their agenda was facilitating and legitimizing the Gulenist agenda, and counteracting any negative publicity about the Gulen charter schools in the US.
Dozens of Texans – from state lawmakers to congressional staff members to university professors – have taken trips to Turkey partly financed by the Gulenist foundations. The Raindrop Foundation covered the expenses of State Senator Leticia Van de Putte’s travel to Istanbul in 2010. In January, she co-sponsored a Senate resolution commending Gulen for his ongoing and inspirational contributions to promoting global peace and understanding.
A documentary film called “Killing Ed” on the Gulenist group’s charter schools in the United States exposed a list of high level officials – senators, congressmen, mayors and police officials – who went on trips to Turkey between 2006 and 2013. The trips, which reportedly cost about $15,000- $30,000 per person, were funded by Gulenist institutions in the US. Among them are The Atlas Foundation of Louisiana, the Raindrop Foundation, the Niagara Foundation, the North Carolina-based Divan Center, the Pacifica Institute.
The group do not always reveal their sponsorship of all-expense-paid trips to Turkey. An office of Congressional Ethics probe in 2015 revealed that the Gulenist funding was carefully concealed in the case of hundreds of trips for members of the US Congress. A USA Today investigation reported on 29 October 2015 that Gulenists secretly and illegally funded “as many as 200 trips to Turkey” for members of Congress since 2008.
Below is a list of Gulenist sponsors for members of US congress based on information from the Legistorm website..
Gulenist foundation, the Rumi Forum, sponsored the trips below:The Rumi Forum seems to have spent $73,980 in 2008 alone, yet it declared on its 2008 International Revenue Service (IRS) Form 990 $0 in expenses for “Payments of travel or entertainment expenses for any federal, state or local public officials.” The Rumi Forum also declared $0 in “lobbying” expenses.
An excerpt from Dr Joshua Hendrick’s thesis (2009) is telling of the Rumi Forum’s agenda:
“With modest beginnings in 1999, the Rumi Forum is now a recognized Turkish lobbying organization… Far more than a cultural or religious institution, the Rumi Forum has cultivated relationships with dozens of US congressmen and senators…The Rumi Forum locates sponsors and hosts events that specifically target people of influence in the DC area and among national political representatives.”
Yet, the Rumi Forum denies any activities of lobbying:
Gulenists also made large sums of donations to politicians. For example, Texas Republican Sheila Jackson Lee was given $23,000 in October 2013, which according to the documents filed with the Federal Election Commission made 18 percent of individual contributions given that Jackson Lee raised just more than $130,000 in that cycle.
The donors are mostly those working at Gulen affiliated charter schools and institutions. For example, Erdal Caglar, chief financial officer at Gulen-affiliated Harmony Charter School, gave $1500 to Jackson Lee in October 2013. He said that Jackson Lee was helping Harmony’s effort to open a charter school in Washington, DC. He said: “She has been always a supporter of our schools. She has attended all major events that Harmony organized. As an educator, we support whoever supports our mission and vision and supports our activities.”
Leading figures of the Gulen group deny that there is any top-down organization of the donations, but the patterns of giving suggest some level of coordination in a community beginning to flex its political muscle. Gulen himself reportedly told followers in 2010 that they could only visit him in the Poconos if they donated to their local congressman, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The investigation also said the schools have been used as tools to influence civic and political leaders in the U.S.
“A number of prominent Turkish nationals connected to the charters or their vendors have emerged as fundraisers and contributors to Hillary Clinton and [then-U.S. President Barack] Obama, among other political leaders,” said the article.
For instance, Furkan Kosar, former head of the FETO-linked Science and Technology charter in Paterson, New Jersey and current head of the Council of Turkic American Associations, raised more than $500,000 for Obama’s 2012 re-election bid.
By reviewing state records, websites, resumes, and tax forms of people linked with the schools’ administration, the investigation also found deep connections between school leaders and Gulen sympathizers.
The story also claimed that the schools organized special tours to Turkey in order to get support for the Gulen network.
It looked into a number of schools — including the Bergen Arts and Science Charter School, Passaic Arts & Science Charter School, Paterson Arts and Science Charter School, Paterson Charter School for Science and Technology, Thomas Edison Energy Smart School, Central Jersey College Prep, and Hudson Arts and Science Charter School — giving evidence of the schools’ close ties with the Gulen network.
Gulen’s Network in the News Headlines
Gulen is also accused of leading a long-running campaign to overthrow the state through the infiltration of Turkish institutions — including the military, police, judiciary, and educational institutions — forming what is commonly known as the “parallel state”.
Turkey has officially submitted to the U.S. evidence that Gulen’s network established a quasi-state within Turkey in an attempt to topple the government and ultimately take over the country in a bloody coup.
Ankara has also urged governments abroad to shutter local FETO network schools, saying they do not want FETO institutions to undermine the rule of law in other countries the way they tried to do so in Turkey.
The board of education in Shelby district decided that the organizational and financial links between the foundation and the schools to be opened were contradictory, the curriculum was insufficient and it was copied from another FETÖ-linked school in Washington, D.C., the Harmony Public Schools.
On the other hand, the FETO-linked foundation’s annual revenue is a staggering 4,1 million dollars, 3,4 million of which is federal and state funding appropriated for the students’ educational costs.
FETO runs one of the biggest charter school networks in the U.S. with over 167 schools all across the country.
FETO’s schools in the U.S. are usually gathered under an umbrella organization and are managed through foundations. As an example, there are 46 schools, all operating under the “Harmony” name in Texas, 30 schools under the “Concept” name in and around Ohio and 11 school campuses under the name “Magnolia” in California.
Fetullah GUlen, a fugitive preacher living in self-imposed exile in the States since 1999 runs the shady cult, which tried to overthrow Turkey’s democratically elected government last July.
Many schools run by the cult are under Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) scrutiny for infraction of rules, corruption, tender fraud and forgery of documents.
Police launched an Istanbul-based operation to arrest 68 former shareholders of Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO)-affiliated Bank Asya on Wednesday morning, nabbing 49 so far, according to a police source. The bank was recently declared bankrupt.
The nationwide operations had been initiated by a prosecutor’s office that specifically targets former shareholders who had authority to elect their executive board and take trade-related and administrative decisions, the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to restrictions on talking to the media, said.
The operation was being carried out in 9 provinces.
FETO and its U.S.-based leader Fetullah Gulen orchestrated the July 2016 defeated coup, which left 250 people martyred and nearly 2,200 injured.
Ankara also accuses FETO of being behind a long-running campaign to overthrow the state through the infiltration of Turkish institutions, particularly the military, police, and judiciary.
The U.S.-based leader of Gulenist Terror Group (FETO), Fetullah Gulen, pays a “vast amount of money” for lobbying activities in Washington to “attack Turkey,” said Robert Amsterdam, an international lawyer who provides assistance to Turkey regarding the investigation on FETO.
“Gulen has spent a vast amount of money on donations to officials. He spends anywhere from half a million to a million dollars a month just on lobbying in Washington,” said Amsterdam, adding that Gülen spends money to attack Turkey, and anyone working for Turkey, as well as to promote and protect his activities in the U.S.
Amsterdam & Partners LLP was retained by Turkey to pursue a global investigation into the suspicious activities of Gülen, the mastermind of the July 15, 2016 coup attempt. He has previously documented over $243 million worth of fraud by the group through its charter schools operating in America.
Mentioning “Empire of Deceit: An Investigation of the Gulen School Network,” a book published by the law firm in September, Amsterdam said it demonstrates the FETo’s undertakings.
“The activities of Fetullah Gulen were shielded as in any criminal conspiracy. A tremendous amount of effort is made to shield Gulen,” he said.
Amsterdam added that FETO schools were run as secret cells of the group. He said that more than 200 schools of Gulen’s network operate in the U.S.
The law firm has already initiated a multi-jurisdictional investigation into the Gulenist network.
City officials in Linden, New Jersey, have asked the state to block the opening of a charter school linked to the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO), according to a media report.
The Linden Board of Education’s 65-page petition regarding the already-approved Union Arts and Science Charter School (UASC) says the school’s application contains “forged and fraudulent” documents, according to NorthJersey.com.
“The egregiousness of UASC’s conduct in submitting what can only be characterized as falsified documents, in support of an application for a charter school to be funded through public tax dollars, cannot be justified or condoned,” the petition reads.
It says the approval process was “dramatically and fatally flawed”, calling on the state’s education agency to stop the school’s inauguration.
“This is the ideal stage at which to halt the process and get to the truth of matters,” the petition said.
A CBS News report in March said the FBI is looking into a network of charter schools linked to FETO leader Fetullah Gulen that spans 28 states.
For the past two decades, Gulen’s followers have been expanding the network of U.S. taxpayer-funded schools the FBI is now investigating.
Gulen is accused by Turkey of leading the shadowy FETO cabal and of masterminding last year’s failed July 15 putsch. He currently lives in self-imposed exile in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania.
The FBI is seeking to determine whether Gulenists have been secretly taking money from the science and math-focused schools to fund FETO in Turkey.
The schools, which comprise a total of 136 institutions according to a CBS count — some estimates put the number higher — have used more than $2.1 billion in taxpayer money since 2010, the news outlet said.
A senior State Department official told CBS the schools look “a lot like the ways in which organized crime sets itself up … to hide money for money laundering”.
Angola has ordered the closure of a school linked to the Gulenist Terror Group (FETO), the group said to have perpetrated the failed July 15 coup attempt, an official source said Wednesday.
Luanda also expelled all of the Turkish staff working at the Colegio Esperanca Internacional (Coespi) and their families – 66 people in total – due to national security reasons.
Turkish President Recep Tayip ErdoGan has rallied African leaders on the continent to help him fight Gulen’s influence, lobbying hard against his longtime rival’s African network during a recent visit to the continent. In the decree signed by President Eduardo dos Santos and seen by AFP, Angola’s long-time ruler said that the closure was to “protect the well-being and security of the citizens…and territorial integrity.”
All of the Turkish staff linked to the school and their families have already been removed from Angola, an official source said. Coespi was the only school linked to the FETO in Angola and had 750 students aged between 5 and 14 years old. Last week, Angolan Interior Minister Angelo de Veiga Tavares defended the closure during an interview on state TV, saying that it was a “sovereign” decision for Luanda to take.
The Turkish Maarif (Education) Foundation has been tasked with taking over FETo schools around the world. The foundation is keen on creating a FETO-free Africa in the near future. Guinea, Niger, and Somalia have so far been the three countries to hand over all of the FETO schools. Furthermore, the governments of Chad, Burkina Faso, Sudan, Senegal, Gabon, and Mauritania have signed deals with the foundation to hand over the schools.
So far, over 80 FETO organizations operating abroad, including schools and training centers, have been shut down or transferred to the government.