Egyptian TV Interviews Gulen in Pennsylvania amid Sisi’s crackdown on dissent at home

After several attempts throughout the past three years, Nashaat Al-Dehi, a pro-regime TV presenter, was able to interview the leader of (FETO) the Fethullah Gulen Organization (Classified as a terrorist organization in Turkey and many countries) – the group which accused by Turkey’s government that they were behind the defeated coup that massacred 251 Turkish people in 2016 – in his residence in Pennsylvania, the United States.

The well-guarded house, where Gulen lives, lies in a mountainous area and its location is kept secret. Dehi clarified that was taken from New York to Gulen’s house in Pennsylvania in a vehicle in the company of some Gulenists to keep the place secret.

Before starting the interview, which was broadcast on Saturday, September 9, 2019 on the pro-regime Ten TV channel, Dehi took a tour in Gulen’s library and bedroom. Although it should have lasted for 15 minutes because of the “poor health condition” of Gulen, as Dehi said, the duration of the interview was about 20 minutes.
The beginning was about the tensions that the Egyptian-Turkish relations have been experiencing since the ouster of late President Mohamed Morsi mid-2013. Gulen claimed he had never learnt that an Egyptian official had ever offended the Turkish people, criticising Turkish President Recep Tayip Erdogan for describing the Egyptian coup leader as “Pharaoh” after overthrowing Egypt’s first democratically elected president.

Gulen also alleged that Turkish officials tend to provoke controversies with Egyptian counterparts, driven by political reasons. Gulen also excluded that relations between Turkey and Egypt could be restored in the near future, despite Turkish leaders’ statements that they are willing to achieve reconciliation. Gulen thinks the duration of the rift is very long and that improvement in bilateral relations is almost impossible at the present time.

“Erdogan does not listen to anyone, particularly us. He accuses us of terrorism. They sentenced me in absentia to life,” Gulen said, calling on “Western and Muslim-majority countries” to unite to stand against the Turkish President.

The terror group leader also said he was told by one of the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AK Party) former foreign ministers, who he referred to as a dear friend and his sympathizer, that President Erdoğan could only be stopped if western and Muslim countries unite against him.

“Many African and Muslim-majority countries hold respect and admiration for Egypt perceiving it as a role model,” Gulen said adding that is why he believes Egypt can achieve such unity and promote cooperation among those countries to face Erdogan.

Upon arrival at Gulen’s residence in Pennsylvania, U.S., Egyptian TV Presenter Nashaat Al-Dehi said, “I have arrived to Pennsylvania after two hours and half of travel from New York. In this state, Fethullah Gulen, the virtual leader of the Turkish Service Movement, lives. After manoeuvres by the guards to keep his location a secret, we arrived here with the guide who took us from our residence in New York to Pennsylvania. We got in a few slide roads to arrive here, where the Turkish opposition leader resides. This leader was accused by (Turkish President Recep Tayyip) Erdogan of all sins in the world. I came to interview this man about Erdogan’s origin and behavior, and discuss with him what is going on in Turkey, what Erdogan is doing and what he will do and the consequences of this on the future of Turkey. Here, I found myself in a big farm or garden surrounded by trees amid tight, intensive and unprecedented security measures because the Turkish intelligence pursue the man; that’s why our movement must be calculated. Therrefore, there were tight controls and strict scrutiny measures,” Dehi said.

“And finally, I reached the residence of the man, which is surrounded by barbed wires. Again, entry and movement here is always checked. Mr. Gulen came here in 1979 when he chose to live here in voluntary exile after Erdogan turned against him. He lives in this place in a building that is spacious enough to accommodate the crowds of his knowledgeable followers. Erdogan describes Gulen as the orchestrator of the 2016 failed coup in Turkey and holds him responsible for all the problems suffered by Turkey. As we had earlier agreed, the interview will last only 15 minutes and I don’t know whether he will allow more time for the interview,” Dehi said before he enters Gulen’s house in the U.S. for the interview.

Sisi’s crackdown on dissent

The interview with the Turkish leader accused of orchestrating the 2016 failed coup come amid a crackdown on dissent in Egypt since rare anti-government protests last week.

Protests broke out on Sept. 20 in Cairo and other cities following online calls for demonstrations against alleged corruption by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi and the military. Egyptian security forces closed off entrances to Cairo’s Tahrir Square on Friday and deployed police reinforcements after a call for a second week of rare anti-government demonstrations. Security forces have stepped up their presence in the main squares of major cities and have been checking mobile phones for political content. On Friday morning, roads leading to Tahrir Square in central Cairo, the epicenter of protests that led to the overthrow of former President Hosni Mubarak in 2011, were closed to traffic. There was a heavy police presence around the square and at some junctions in the city center.

Egypt has arrested nearly 2,000 people in what may be its biggest crackdown since the aftermath of the 2013 coup led by el-Sissi against the country’s first and only democratically elected President Mohammed Morsi.

Following is a full transcript of the interview:

Dehi: In the name of Allah, Most Merciful, Most Compassionate. In the beginning of this extraordinary episode with the man that I have been trying to interview for two years or more; that I I was seeking to meet with this unique character who is really exciting and interesting in different arena; but finally I managed to meet with him. The main quality in this place is humility and hospitality I herewith the knowledgeable figure Mohamed Fethullah Gulen.

Dehi: Welcome to you, and peace be upon you.

Gulen: Peace be upon you, too.

Dehi: First, I want to apologize the timing as you don’t feel well. But I promise we will take it easy. In the beginning, we are in a difficult time on the political and economic levels because of the grudge and hatred that have led two big countries like Turkey and Egypt come down to that. I follow what is happing for members of the “Service Movement” who are now on the run and I met one of them lately in France. The question is: Why are relations between Egypt and Turkey strained, and is it permissible to do all this in the name of religion?

Gulen: Actually, I didn’t hear that any Egyptian official on any level had offended the Turkish people. But when the 2013 events happened the head of the Turkish government, Erdogan back then started it by saying that “there is a Moses to each Pharaoh”, calling the Egyptian president a pharaoh before getting to know him properly and understand his character, which created tension between the two parties. Change that is based on principles and certain values, which protects the country’s security and stability, defers from the change that creates uncertainty and chaos in the country.

Dehi: Address the Egyptian people with a few words?

Gulen: The Egyptian people really like the Turkish people and both sympathize with each other, but the Turkish politicians normally tend to criticize the Egyptian ones because of political reasons, and this criticism is going on until now. These Turkish officials expressed on many occasions their intention to renew relations between Egypt and their country and to restore normal relations. But I am not sure if that could happen after this long break up in relations. Even though I wish that the two countries could restore relations. But if such Turkish politicians are in power this hope is so thin or even impossible to be materialized. As they flip all the time and are inconsistent, changing their position overnight. As God said in the Holy Quran; “Wavering between them, [belonging] neither to the believers nor to the disbelievers”

Dehi: Why has the current Turkish regime imprisoned so many journalists and dissidents overexpressing their opinion?

Gulen: The current leaders of our country aren’t true sons of Anatolia. It’s even said that they came from the north. They lost sight of the original values of Anatolia’s people. But they pretend to respect the values of these people and its religious, moral, traditional and cultural principles. They can’t understand and adopt these values. And they use Islamic slogans and powerful Islamic speeches to guarantee that they remain in power. Yes, we supported these people in the past, as Erdogan used my advice when he launched his political project. I heard he prays, and he is an ‘Imam Hatip’ high-school graduate, and he doesn’t have a college degree. So, I gave him useful advice and positive opinions. But since he held office, he has used his power for his own interests, and has controlled the education institutions. So he closed institutions, schools and the private colleges which didn’t have a place for alcohol, smoking, drugs and all these sort of things. He closed these institutions merely because it didn’t serve his own domestic and foreign agenda. He admitted it, he said that he changed three ministers to close these institutions.

He revealed his true face during the corruption and bribery investigations of December 25-27, 2013. Bribery and stealing were uncovered in addition to their corruption despite pretending to be Islamist, despite their control of the security agency and judiciary system that revealed their corruption. Erdogan accused the police, prosecutors and judges who worked in the case of being members of the “Service Movement”. I don’t know anyone of them, maybe some of them are sympathizers with the movement, and believe in the legitimacy of its activities, and the benefits it achieved for society. But still, I don’t know them. The philosophy of “the service” is based on fighting three things, ignorance, poverty and conflict.

Coexistence, cooperation and agreement are among the means of seeking heavenly support, and its a must to move on in this path. On that point, “the service’s” sympathizers found these ideas reasonable and useful for humanity. That’s why they embraced it. That’s why these ideas became so popular and its sympathizers were accepted in many countries. But believe me, I don’t know most of them. Yes, Erdogan wanted to control the armed forces and change to serve his own interests. Then he launched a campaign against “the service” and was determined to get rid of its sympathizers.

Dehi: Is there real democracy in Turkey?

Gulen: Democracy is the best system of diverse and heterogeneous societies. There are all kinds of Muslims and Christians in Turkey and Egypt, and there are atheists too. So I believe we should support administrations that take into consideration the common ground of society and doesn’t harm anyone. Forcing the beliefs or visions of political Islam’s members on diverse societies will cause tension and conflicts. And that is happening right now in Turkey. And its not clear if they are intentionally doing that to serve their own interests or by mistake. After all, they know nothing about politics. Granted that they did something that served Muslims, but they covered it with Islamic slogans and used it as cheap goods to guarantee remaining in power, and also impart legitimacy to their corruption and their luxurious lives.

Dehi: Are the views of all segments of Turkish society considered?

Gulen: The situation now shows that they are pragmatists. Egyptian society is diverse like the Turkish one, so consideration for the beliefs and feelings of all groups is critical for both countries. Democracy has different forms and applications all over the world. So we can develop a democratic system that is fit for situations and values that also allow as to benefit from our diversity.

If the regime in Turkey wants to form a new constitution, it should be one that is suitable for the Muslim majority and respects other beliefs at the same time. If they ask me, I will advise them to adopt the American constitution that respects all rights and beliefs, and serves the Muslim rights. And they can benefit from it as they did with the French one in the past.

Dehi: What do you think of the current Turkish Constitution?

Gulen: The current Turkish constitution is unfit to rule a society like Turkish society, which has various races and groups. Our country has different groups like the Turkish, the Kurds, the Circassians and the Alawy, in addition to various sects of Muslims, atheists, and others. You can’t force this diverse society to follow one opinion, you must consider the feelings of all of them. Because life is giving and taking, and you must treat people in the way you want to be treated.

Dehi: When can you visit Egypt?

Gulen: I take medication every 30 minutes, and recently I endured a surgery that caused serious complications. That’s why I don’t think my health conditions will allow me to travel.

Dehi: If you were asked to send a message to Erdogan, what would you send him?

Gulen: Erdogan listens to no one, especially us. As he has preconceptions against us, he accuses us of terrorism and accuses me personally of leading it, and they have passed life sentences on me many times. That’s why I have nothing to say to him. But the democratic countries, western states and Islamic countries can take a unified position against him to push him to stop his tyranny. And I believe that is the only way to stop the chaos and unrest that Turkey lives in now. That what a dear friend told me, who is a sympathizer for “the service” and was a foreign minister for Erdogan.

Dehi: Is the situation in Turkey close to going the right way?

Gulen: They are on the right track, but I follow up from abroad and I am not in a position that allows me to talk about what is happening like someone living in it.

Dehi: How do we save the world from terrorism? And purify religion from impurities?

Gulen: I believe that the prevailing chaos in the world will continue, unless we form an ideal system that serves the welfare of all humanity. But we must be committed to follow this path. I believe that the dear Egyptian people and those who didn’t yet lose their humanity in Turkey can do it. If they achieve balance and moderation on intellectual and emotional levels, and succeed in forming an ideal system that is a role model for the rest of the world.

Dehi: What do you think of Iran’s behavior towards Islamic countries?

Gulen: Iran now adopts a strange enmity against the Sunni world, and leads harmful acts against Muslim countries. Anyway, I hope that they act in a balanced way and refrain from offending our values and figures like Abu Bakr, Omar, and Othman, may God bless them and bless Ali a thousand times. I still hope that they stop offending our mother Aisha, may God bless her. Yes, these are very important things to unify the word of Muslims, to achieve understanding, harmony and solidarity between them. The west, especially the Anglo-Saxon sphere, had made the Islamic world their enemy in the past.  That was before the Crusades leader who occupied Istanbul made his well-known statement “Now the Crusades have ended”. But the current shameful situation of Muslims after successive defeats they endured over centuries isn’t likely to be changed in a short period. But it will take three generations to reform it. And I hope we do our best to reform our situation and conditions during this period.

Dehi: I want to express my thanks, love, and best of wishes for you ad the good people in Turkey; and pray to God to help Turkey get rid of these individuals that have taken Turkey far away from the real and correct Turkey. It was pleasures, sir. I hope to come again for a new interview with you shortly.