The panel was moderated by GPI Executive Director Deniz Karatas and included the following speakers:
- Dr. Abraham Wagner – Adjunct Professor of International and Public Affairs and Senior Research Scholar, Columbia University
- Mark Hall – Film Director and Producer of the documentary "Killing Ed"
- Mary Addi – Professional Educator
Understanding the events of July 15, 2016
GPI Executive Director Deniz Karatas began the discussion with a short explanation of the events that occurred on July 15, 2016. She defined the night of the coup attempt as a time when “a section of the Turkish military launched a coordinated operation with fighter jets, tanks, and heavy weapons in several major cities to topple the government and unseat President Erdogan.”
She emphasized that as the news of the coup spread over social media, thousands of ordinary citizens used such simple items as kitchen utensils to defend themselves from the ensuing violence. The coup was squashed quickly, but not before 241 lives were lost and over 2,000 people were injured. She said that the Turkish government blames the Fethullah Gulen Terrorist Organization (FETO) – which is a group led by U.S.-based Turkish preacher Fethullah Gulen and known for its educational outreach in the United States – for orchestrating the coup attempt.
The hidden truth of Gulen movement charter schools
Hall asserted that Americans pay $729 million tax dollars in education to fund charter schools such as those operated by the Gulen movement. With reference to Addi’s first-hand witness account of illegal extortion and money laundering within the schools, Hall alluded to the possibility that American money was used to fund the July 2016 anti-democratic coup attempt in Turkey. Wagner also stated that there is very little attention given by American law enforcement and infrastructure, let alone the American press, towards the wrongdoings of the Gulen movement, allowing for it to grow and expand influence in the U.S. Addi, who formerly taught at a Gulen movement school in the U.S., said she first learned that her Turkish husband, who also taught at the school, was part of the movement when she realized he was giving 40 percent of his salary back to the movement.
Addi told her husband, “Do you get that this is not legal? They are extorting money from you.” She described it as “money laundering.”
The effects of the coup attempt on U.S.-Turkey relations
Karatas stated that “the coup attempt had a profound effect on Turkey’s domestic politics and foreign affairs.” She noted that although the Turkish government has asked for Gulen’s extradition after presenting evidence that he staged the coup, the United States has been uncooperative in investigating and pursuing the issue.
Wagner expressed his belief that the Gulen movement “poses a serious national security threat” to the United States and that there needs to be more effort in exposing the violent agenda of a seemingly positive educational organization. Addi added that American citizens must place pressure on their representatives and government agencies to take the evidence against the Gulen movement seriously.
Hall emphasized that the Gulen movement does not represent Turkey or the Turkish people despite their attempts to portray themselves as the Turkish-American voice. He said that he would “implore the Turkish people in America to consider speaking the truth about this matter to those that do not understand the issue.”
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