Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who has been waging a crackdown on followers of the Gülen movement over the past several years, accused the movement of exporting terrorism to 160 countries around the world from the US in a speech he gave at a UN meeting.
“FETÖ [a term coined by Erdoğan and his government to refer to the Gülen movement as a terrorist organization] is exporting terrorism from the US to 160 countries. FETÖ receives $763 million from state budgets for charter schools in 27 US states. It is financed by this,” Erdoğan said as he delivered a speech at the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Tuesday.
The Turkish government accuses the Gülen movement of masterminding a failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016 and labels it a “terrorist organization,” although the movement strongly denies involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.
The movement, inspired by the views of US-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen, is known for its educational activities, running hundreds of schools around the world, as well as its promotion of intercultural and interreligious dialogue.
Erdoğan, who accused the Gülen movement of killing 251 people on the night of the coup attempt, said the leader of the group lives in the US.
“Their leader is currently in the US, in Pennsylvania, living in a 400-decare piece of land and exporting terrorism from there to 160 countries in the world,” said Erdoğan.
The Turkish president said his government has eliminated Gülen movement followers in Turkey thanks to “an assertive struggle” they have fought with the support of the people for the past five years.
“Now, we see this terrorist group’s activities across the world. Unfortunately, some countries we know as our friends refuse to give them [Gülen followers] back to us. Those who are not aware of the danger will pay a heavy price for it,” Erdoğan added as he called on other countries to take action against the Gülen movement.
Erdoğan launched the war on the movement in late 2013 following the revelation of a corruption investigation in which Erdoğan’s close circle was implicated.
He accused followers of the Gülen movement within the judiciary and the police of staging a coup against the government with the corruption investigation. The movement strongly denies having any role behind the graft probe.
The Turkish president has been waging a war on Gülen followers within and without Turkey for the past several years, asking countries to close down Gülen-affiliated schools and institutions as well as detain and extradite teachers, businessmen and their families who sympathize with the movement.
As a result of the global witch-hunt against the movement, more than 100 Gülen-linked Turkish nationals have been brought back to Turkey through intelligence operations and with the cooperation of other countries, including Kosovo, Qatar, Azerbaijan, Malaysia, Gabon and Myanmar.
Erdoğan has many times sought the extradition of Gülen from the US, but the US has said Turkey must provide concrete evidence showing Gülen’s involvement in the coup attempt.
According to the TurkeyPurge.com website, more than 170,000 people have been removed from state posts due to Gülen links since the failed coup.
The European Commission said in a report on April 17 that after the declaration of a state of emergency in Turkey on July 20, 2016, over 150,000 people were taken into custody and 78,000 were arrested on the pretext of an anti-coup fight.
Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu on Dec. 12, 2017 said 234,419 passports had been revoked as part of investigations into the Gülen movement since the failed coup.
On Nov. 16, 2017 Soylu said eight holdings and 1,020 companies were seized as part of operations against the movement.