president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has mounted an aggressive crackdown
against Gulen and his followers, known as Gulenists. Erdoğan, who
was once allied with Gulen, has even personally asked President Obama
to extradite the 74-year-old guru, who has lived in self-exile in
Pennsylvania’s Pocono mountains since 1999.
has accused Gulen of attempting to undermine the Turkish government.
Gulen’s followers control many Turkish institutions, including the
media, courts, and police force.
addition to muddying that complex geopolitical dynamic, a 2009 email
recently released by Judicial Watch provides yet another example of
access being provided to a Clinton campaign and Clinton Foundation
the April 1, 2009 message, a Gulen follower named Gokhan Ozkok asked
Clinton deputy chief of staff Huma Abedin for help in connecting one
of his allies to President Obama.
is founding board member of the Turkish Cultural Center and part of a
network of businesses and non-profits affiliated with the Gulen
movement, also known as Hizmet.
served as national finance co-chair of the pro-Clinton Ready
PAC. He gave $10,000 to the committee in 2014 and $2,700 to Clinton’s
campaign last year. He is also listed on the Turkish
Cultural Center’s website as
a member of the Clinton Global Initiative, one of the non-profit arms
of the Clinton Foundation. He’s given between $25,000 and $50,000
to the Clinton charity.
link between Gulenists and the Clinton orbit was revealed in
a lobbying registration disclosure filed
last month with the Senate. It shows that a Gulen-aligned group
called the Alliance for Shared Values hired the Clinton-connected
Podesta Group to lobby Congress on its behalf. The group seeks to
lobby for the “promotion of peace, tolerance and interfaith
group’s executive director is Alp Aslandogan, a former professor at
universities in Texas. He has also donated to Clinton’s political
endeavors, campaign finance records show.
Podesta Group is a natural choice for those seeking influence with
Clinton. The firm was co-founded by John Podesta, Clinton’s
campaign chairman, and his brother Tony, a major Clinton campaign
various non-profit groups, both Gulenists promote the cleric’s
teachings, which are relatively moderate and pro-Western. They are
also involved in the Gulen movement’s money-making endeavor: a vast
network of taxpayer-funded charter schools.
schools, which number more than 150, have been a source of
controversy for the Gulen movement.
investigators have reportedly investigated some of the schools for
using work visas to bring Turkish citizens to the U.S. to teach. In
some cases, taxpayer funds were used to pay immigration and legal
fees for family members of teachers who worked at the facilities.
Funds allocated to the schools have also been funneled to contractors
controlled by Turkish nationals with connections to the Gulen
York Times article focused
on suspicious ties between Gulenist schools operating in Texas under
the name Harmony Public Schools. Harmony contracted with a company
controlled by a pro-Gulen non-profit called the Cosmos Foundation. In
2002, Aslandogan purchased property that was later sold to Harmony.
He also founded the Texas Gulf Foundation, which has also been
awarded taxpayer-funded contracts to provide services to Gulen
did not return a request for comment. Nor did Ozkok, who has
affiliations with Gulen-connected education firms Sema Education and
Apple Education Services.
partnerships between the schools and contractors allow taxpayer funds
to remain within the Gulen network. Teachers at the schools, many of
whom are not fluent in English, are also used to help finance Hizmet,
according to one former teacher at a Gulen institute.
teacher, who is now a government whistleblower, told
“60 Minutes” in 2012 that Turkish
teachers are required to return a large portion of their salary to
the Gulen network. She said that her Turkish husband, who taught at
one of the schools, was required to return 40 percent of his salary.
of visa fraud and other impropriety, which Gulenists largely deny,
have contributed to an increased profile for Gulen, who ended up
staying in the U.S. permanently after coming here for medical
campaign to rid Turkey of Gulen’s influence has also thrust the
recluse onto the public spotlight.
top of his efforts to crackdown on Gulenists within the Turkish
media, judiciary and police, Erdoğan has sought to exert
influence over Gulen in the U.S.
a 2014 visit with President Obama, Erdoğan, who served as prime
minister prior to his presidential term, reportedly asked Obama for
Gulen’s extradition. The Turkish government has also retained the
law firm Amsterdam & Partners in an effort to undermine Gulen and
Gulenists in the courts as well as the media.
connections between the Gulen movement and Clinton are not the first
to be revealed. They also add to questions about what it is the
Gulenists want from Clinton and whether the Democrat has rewarded
their financial support with favors.
year The Daily Caller reported that numerous Gulen
followers have donated to Clinton’s various political campaigns and
to her family charity. One Gulen movement leader, Recep Ozkan,
donated between $500,000 and $1 million to the Clinton Foundation.
senator from New York, Clinton gave a keynote address at the Turkish
Cultural Center’s annual banqэuet.
email to Abedin, which is the first piece of communication
showing that a Gulen follower had direct access to Clinton’s staff,
sought a favor.
tell Madam Secretary that it would be great if President Obama can
include a 15 minutes [sic] meeting with Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu,
Secretary-General of the Organization of of [sic] the Islamic
Conference (OIC), in his trip to Turkey,” wrote Ozkok.
terror watchdog groups flagged the meetings, pointing to Ihsanoglu’s
past praise of the terrorist group Hamas and for Sudanese president
and U.S. foe Omar al-Bashir. But Ihsanoglu does not appear to be a
radical firebrand like so many Islamists in the Middle East.It is
unclear if Abedin forwarded Ozkok’s request to Clinton or anyone
else in the Obama administration. But Ihsanoglu, who is an ally of
Gulen’s and lost to Erdogan in the 2014 presidential election, did
meet with Obama in Istanbul several days after the email. There,
Obama reportedly extended an invitation to Ihsanoglu to visit the
White House. The academic visited in June 2009 and reportedly asked
Obama to create a U.S. ambassador to the Muslim world.
for the Podesta Group, the lobbying firm has connections to several
controversial companies seeking to peddle influence at Clinton’s
Caller investigations have revealed that the Podesta Group has
represented Uranium One, a Russia-controlled uranium company that had
ties to Canadian mining magnate and Clinton Foundation philanthropist
Podesta Group also lobbied Clinton’s State Department on
behalf of BAE Systems just as the U.K. defense contractor was
facing stiff government sanctions for illegal arms trading. The
Associated Press has sued the State Department for records pertaining
to discussions to let BAE Systems off with a slap on the wrist for
favorite lobbying firm also started working last year for Islami
Bank Bangladesh, a Bengali bank that has been linked to terrorist
groups. And earlier this year, Tony Podesta, the Clinton bundler and
Podesta Group principal, was hired by the Saudi government