The methods, if any, of recruitment/membership application procedures for Fethullah Gulen's Nurcu faction; human rights abuses in Turkey; implication in human rights abuses in Turkey or elsewhere [TUR37763.E]

According to a professor of Islamic history who recently presented a paper entitled "The Movement of Fethullah Gulen at the Beginning of the 21st Century: Transcending Modernity in the New Islamic Discourse" at the conference "Islamic Modernities: Fethullah Gulen and Contemporary Islam," recruitment into Fethullah Gulen's Nurcu group has traditionally tended to be informal and by direct personal contact; employing methods of recruitment very similar to those used by evangelical Christian groups on campuses in North America (6 Sept. 2001). In the past, when the writings of Sayyid Nursi, the "founder" of the Nurcu group, were illegal, people simply mimeographed his works and distributed them through informal study groups (ibid). Today, Gulen's followers have the benefit of being able to utilize a major newspaper, broadcasting and audio and video tapes (ibid).

A political sociologist who recently completed a Ph.D dissertation on the Fethullah Gulen movement entitled "Between Islam and the State: the Politics of Engagements" and who undertook field work in Turkey between 1996 and 1999, agreed that there is no formal recruitment or membership in Gulen or Nur and there is free access and exit (7 Sept. 2001). The political sociologist went on to remark that the boundaries of the community are not clearly defined, as it attracts people with diverse political orientations and different religious attitudes (ibid). For this reason it can be difficult to identify "insiders" (ibid). However, devout followers of the community have a different status and are expected to be in unconditional "service" of the community, for example, they may be sent abroad to teach (ibid).

References are made to Fethullah Gulen "followers" (BBC 31 Aug. 2000; The New York Times 29 Aug. 2000; MERIA Dec. 2000), known as Fethullahcilar or "the followers of Fethullah," a name Fethullah himself is reportedly against (ibid). His supporters are estimated in the hundreds of thousands (ibid; BBC 31 Aug. 2000) and their numbers are reported to include influential members of Turkish society, including those in the civil service, police and education (BBC 16 Oct. 2000). An article appearing in Turkpulse, a self-described "Disinformation Corrector" edited by a journalist who analyzes Turkish news reports, states that "Fethullah receives monthly and yearly donations, which he terms 'taxes', from his supporters" (16 Aug. 2001).

According to the political sociologist, Gulen is the most pro-state Islamic movement both inside and outside of Turkey (7 Sept. 2001). Moreover, its followers are nationalists, seemingly proud of representing Turkey outside of the state, opening schools around the world (ibid). This facilitates interaction and "engagement" with the state, ranging from domestic negotiations and contestations over such things and education and the numerous Gulen schools to "explicit cooperation in the international sites of the community" (ibid).

However, until about 15-20 years ago, the Nur movement - the predecessor of Gulen - had faced "repression and threats from the state" (ibid). Even today, there may be some ruptures and erratic tension between some departments of the state and the Gulen movement (ibid). The military is one of the most cautious institutions of the state, and according to the political sociologist, have discriminated and even intimidated Gulen followers (ibid). As well, there is ongoing tension and confrontation between legislative units and the Gulen community, including its leader Fethullah Gulen (ibid). For information regarding the criminal proceedings against Fethullah Gulen please refer to TUR34175 of 10 April 2000. However, such instances have been handled through a "moderate politics of engagement, rather than a tyrannical human rights abuse" (ibid).

Some secularists in Turkey take a harsh stand against all Islamists without differentiating between particular groups (Political Sociologist 7 Sept. 2001). The political sociologist, therefore, notes that it is possible that one authority may personally harass Gulen followers (ibid). However, this circumstance in no way defines the relations between the Gulen movement and the State (ibid). The Gulen community is the most "conformist" Islamic movement (ibid). The movement, which generally disassociates itself from the Islamic parties in Turkey and is on relatively good terms with State authorities, is less likely to be exposed to human rights abuse and the state's repressive policies than are other Islamist groups (ibid). The political sociologist also notes that the Gulen community has "accumulated extreme amounts of social, economic and political power" (ibid).

A professor of political science at the University of Utah who has written several articles on Fethullah Gulen and was co-organizer of a recent conference entitled "Islamic Modernities: Fethullah Gulen and Contemporary Islam," stated that the "movement is harassed but not persecuted" and that its schools, including Fatih University, are still functioning (4 Sept. 2001). The professor of Islamic history remarked that Gulen's followers, especially women who choose to wear head coverings, are regularly harassed and often arrested for illegal acts, such as wearing a scarf on a college campus (6 Sept. 2001).

A 15 February 2001 article reported that Sufi brotherhoods, among them the Nurcu group led by Fethullah Gulen, despite having been officially banned in Turkey since the secular reforms in the 1920s, "continue to operate more or less legally in Turkey" (RFE).

For more information on the Fethullah Gulen movement please refer to the attached article entitled "Fethullah Gulen and His Liberal 'Turkish Islam' Movement."

No reference could be found to the implication of the Fethullah Gulen movement in human rights abuses in Turkey or elsewhere.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA). December 2000. Vol. 4, No. 4. Bulent Aras. Omer Caha. "Fethullah Gulen and His Liberal 'Turkish Islam' Movement." [Accessed 5 September 2001]


BBC. 16 October 2000. "Turkey Tries Islamic Leader in Absentia." [Accessed 5 September 2001]

_____. 31 August 2000. "Army Chief Demands Islamist Purge." [Accessed 5 September 2001]

Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA). December 2000. Vol. 4, No. 4. Bulent Aras. Omer Caha. "Fethullah Gulen and His Liberal 'Turkish Islam' Movement." [Accessed 5 September 2001]

The New York Times. 29 August 2000. "Turkish Court Voids Warrant for Islamic Leader."

Political Sociologist, McGill University, Montréal. 7 September 2001. Correspondence.

Professor of Islamic History, Georgetown University, Washington DC. 6 September 2001. Correspondence.

Professor of Political Science. University of Utah, Salt Lake City. 4 September 2001. Correspondence.

Radio Free Europe (RFE). 15 February 2001. Jean-Christophe Peuch. "Turkey: Religious Orders Still Key Element in Secular Life." [Accessed 6 September 2001]

Turkpulse. 16 August 2001. "Brief Background to Fethullah's Present Situation." [Accessed 30 Aug. 2001]

Additional Sources Consulted

Current History

IRB databases

Jane's Intelligence Review


The Middle East

Middle East Report

The Muslim World

Resource Centre. Country File, December 2000-August 2001

Oral Sources:

Various attempts to contact conference participants at "Islamic Identities: Fethullah Gulen and Contemporary Islam"

Internet sites including:

Amnesty International



Human Rights Internet

Human Rights Net

Human Rights Watch

Human Rights Without Frontiers

International Coalition of Religious Freedom

International Relations and Security Network

Radio Free Europe

UN News

World News Connection