Gulen, Kimse Yok Mu and Hamas
Why might individuals be concerned about the connection of over a hundred publicly-funded charter schools to Fethullah Gulen and the Gulen Movement? This question may puzzle some readers, as a cursory web search on Gulen can leave many with the impression that there is nothing more to learn about Gulen other than his being a “great man” who promotes interfaith dialog and peace.
One possible cause for concern is given here (other concerns will be addressed on separate webpages). Members of the Gulen Movement attended a meeting where a Hamas official gave a speech thanking representatives of a number of Turkish charities for their aid, including a Gulenist charity (Kimse Yok Mu). This Hamas official, Sami abu Zuhri, is known to have made statements on other occasions that some Americans might find objectionable. Moreover, Gulen himself made a donation to Kimse Yok Mu, the Gulenist charity whose representatives attended this meeting listened to this speech. Below, we present detailed evidence and sources for these assertions.
Gulen donated to Kimse Yok Mu, which is a Gulenist charity
On January 7, 2009, the newspaper Today’s Zaman, in an article entitled “Turkish NGOs Collaborate to Help Palestinians in Gaza,” reported:
“A Turk living abroad, internationally respected Turkish intellectual and scholar Fethullah Gülen, has donated $10,000 to support Kimse Yok Mu’s efforts in Gaza.”
Kimse Yok Mu is widely known to be part of the Gulen Movement. Helen Rose Ebaugh wrote about this organization in her book entitled “The Gülen Movement: A Sociological Analysis of a Civic Movement Rooted in Moderate Islam.” Here is an excerpt: “ The one exception to the decentralized pattern of initiating and running Gülen-inspired projects is Kimse Yok Mu, the relief organization that evolved into a nonprofit charitable organization after the 1999 earthquake in the heart of the Marmara region in Turkey. This Gülen-inspired agency does have a formal, hierarchical structure and organized mechanisms for fundraising.”
Representatives of Kimse Yok Mu attended a meeting in Turkey at which Hamas spokesman Sami abu Zuhri gave a speech
The following are excerpts from a news announcement from January 22, 2009, posted on the website of the Union of NGOs of the Islamic World (UNIW):
“Representatives of leading Turkish humanitarian relief organizations namely IHH, Kimse Yok Mu, Deniz Feneri, Cansuyu, Kızılay and Yardımeli who moved to the area shortly after the Israeli brutal attacks to Gaza Strip attended to the consultation meeting held in the general headquarters of MUSIAD in Istanbul.”
“On the other hand, HAMAS spokesperson who was in Turkey for various contacts also graced UNIW consultation meeting for Gaza where he informed the participants about the latest developments stating that “all massacres, atrocities and ethnic cleansing carried out by the Israeli occupation forces will not break down the resistance and will of the Palestinians”
[Note added on Sep 17, 2010. Since our webpage was published on Sep 2, 2010, the UNIW webpage quoted here has been taken down. A cached version saved on August 25, 2010 can still be viewed here. We believe the timing of this removal is no coincidence, since the UNIW's page had been up continually since Jan 2009.]
The article then makes it clear that the Hamas spokeperson referred to here, who attended this meeting along with with Kimse Yok Mu representatives and gave a speech at the meeting, is Sami abu Zuhri. The article goes on to state that:
“Abu Zuhri went on his speech saying: “It is our natural, religious and international right to defend our homeland against the occupation. …….. Dr. Sami abu Zuhri thanked to [sic] the Turkish Government and Turkish community at the end of his speech.”
Sami abu Zuhri has made statements that some Americans may find objectionable
On August 31, 2010, CNN News reported that:
“Four Israelis -- including a pregnant woman -- were killed Tuesday near Hebron in the West Bank in a shooting for which the militant wing of Hamas claimed responsibility…”
CNN went on to note in this report that:
“Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza, congratulated the attackers, saying the attack was a normal reaction to what he called ‘the crime of occupation.’ ”
Further, a Reuters news article of August 30, 2009 reports a statement made by Sami abu Zuhri suggesting that he denies the Holocaust:
“Hamas' official spokesman in Gaza, Sami Abu Zuhri, said he did not want to discuss the history of the Holocaust but said: ‘Regardless of the controversy, we oppose forcing the issue of the so-called Holocaust onto the syllabus, because it aims to reinforce acceptance of the occupation of Palestinian land.’ “
Some Americans may object to any organization that demonstrates a willingness to meet with Hamas officials and listen to their speeches
Hamas’ designation by several governments as a terrorist organization (details below) could very well lead some Americans to be concerned about Gulen Movement members associating with Hamas officials.
As of August 6, 2010, Hamas remained on the US State Department’s list of designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations. As reported by CNN on January 27, 2009, Hamas is also on the European Union’s list of terror organizations, as well as the Canadian government’s list. Further, the militant wing of Hamas (Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades) has been designated as a terrorist organization by Australia and the United Kingdom.
Could money pass from US charter schools to foreign organizations that some Americans would find objectionable?
The answer is probably yes, through two possible pathways. One is that members of the Gulen Movement are strongly pressured to donate part of their income to the movement. This has been documented in Joshua Hendrick’s 2009 thesis from the University of California Santa Cruz. Gulenist teachers and administrators in the US Gulen charter schools are believed to be making such donations (the Charter School Watchdog website has presented compelling evidence that these “contributions” are in fact coerced). Absent any proof of coercion in a court of law, there is nothing presently illegal in a Gulenist teacher donating part of their salary to Kimse Yok Mu.
The other possible pathway is through overhead from the schools that is paid to their management organizations (Accord, Concept Schools, Grace, etc). These organizations are also part of the Gulen Movement. To the best of our knowledge, the accounting books for every Gulen charter school are completely in the hands of Gulenists (the name of the person who has care of the books must be declared on IRS Form 990s). We note that a number of H1B visas have been used by the Gulen charter schools or their charter holders to hire accountants, despite the fact that there is no evidence of a shortage of qualified accountants already residing in the US. While in some states the full budget of a charter school is legally open to public inspection, the same cannot be said of the management organizations that receive overhead from the schools, even if they are non-profit corporations. Generally, the only publicly accessible window into a non-profit’s finances is the Form 990 that it must annually submit to the Internal Revenue Service, and these documents give only a general overview. Money could therefore potentially pass from these non-profits to, for example, Gulen’s associates in the United States, who could then transfer it to organizations such as Kimse Yok Mu, without American citizens being able to track this flow.
These pathways are of course speculative, as we have as of yet no hard evidence of money being transferred in this way. The potential is, however, sufficient to arouse concern among some Americans.
We have provided here evidence that some of Fethullah Gulen’s and the Gulen Movement’s activities could be sources of concern to some Americans, causing them to object to charter schools having ties with Gulen and his Movement.
Because this evidence ties in to some extremely controversial issues in the Middle East, we wish to be very clear about what we are saying, and more importantly, what we are not saying.
This webpage is not intended in any way to take sides on political issues in the Middle East. Nor are we denying the fact that widely-respected humanitarian organizations determined that a serious need for humanitarian assistance existed in Gaza. We also do not rule out the possibility that Kimse Yok Mu may perhaps have contributed to such humanitarian assistance, although we note that there is no way for Americans to determine exactly how Kimse Yok Mu distributes its funds.
Our purpose in writing this webpage has simply been to provide evidence that the Gulen Movement is not as uncontroversial as some here in the US have claimed.