: Fethullah Gülen: who is the man Turkey's president blames for coup attempt?

16:45 Jul. 16, 2016

Fethullah Gülen: who is the man Turkey's president blames for coup attempt?

In this Sept. 24, 2013 file photo, Turkish Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen is pictured at his residence in Saylorsburg, Pa. (AP Images)

Cleric who leads global Hizmet movement from exile in Pennyslvania, US, is a critic of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and remains influential in Turkish affairs

The accusation by Turkey's president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, that US-based cleric Fethullah Gülen is behind Friday night's attempted coup is part of a familiar rhetoric and a long-running rivalry, the Guardian reports. So is there any truth in it?

Read also Five reasons this Turkey coup bid failed

It is probably worth pointing out in the first instance that the traditional rivalry in Turkish society has been between secularists (including those in the army) who look to the modern state's founder, Kemal Atatürk, and Islamists – not least Erdogan's AKP party.

The AKP has itself provoked a number of coups or attempts in Turkish history. And in many respects, Friday night looked to be another event in that tradition: a military coup driven from within Turkey's armed forces. By Saturday morning Erdoğan had reasserted power and it was announced dozens of senior colonels and generals had been removed.

The military has long seen itself as the guardian of modern Turkey, and the movement lead by Gülen occupies a sort of murky gap between the two sides, secularist and Islamist.

Read also Nearly 3,000 arrested as Erdogan announces "coup attempt is over"

Gülen, a cleric living in reclusive exile in Pennsylvania, leads a popular movement called Hizmet. It is a hodge-podge that at times has appeared cultish – spawning thinktanks, businesses, schools and publications across the globe, while building up substantial wealth and influence in the process.

According to some reports, 10% of the Turkish population is estimated to support Hizmet.

The centre of growing tension in recent years between the Gülenists, Erdoğan and the AKP has been Erdoğan's blaming of Gülenists in the police and judiciary for anti-corruption allegations in 2013 that targeted senior supporters of the president, including his son Bilal.

The allegations were seen as retaliation for Erdoğan's moves against Gülenist schools as the president attempted to limit the growth of the movement (an effort that had also seen Erdoğan invite Gülen to return from exile to Turkey).

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