You may have read or learned of the disparaging and misleading USA Today headline, “Turkish Sect Funded Congress Travel,” and subsequent article referencing the “Gulen or Hizmet (service) movement” in last weekend’s edition. We believe, by association, it attempts to negatively reflect on the Pacifica Institute and the hundreds of other community-based, non-profit organizations throughout the United States and elsewhere.
The USA Today articles has three main allegations:
1-Our Turkey trips were ‘secret’ activities
2-The trips had hidden religious and political agenda
3-Our Turkey trips were organized by institutions which are not truly non-profit.
We wanted to keep you informed that Pacifica Institute is working with lawyers to investigate the allegations and determine the facts.
Let us explain why these three assertions are misleading:
1-The USA Today article wrongly accuses our Turkey trips as ‘secret’ events. In fact, each Congressional office and each Gulen-inspired organization respectively affirms the trips were organized and expenses were reported appropriately. Members of Congress and their staff receive approval to travel on such trips in advance from the Ethics Committee. Like all non-profits, the various organizations (each a separately formed US corporation under local governance) report their activities to the Internal Revenue Service. Most, if not all, trips are planned months in advance and distribute descriptive pamphlets detailing the activities and itineraries. How is that ‘secret?’
2-Our trips included the visits of several important cities in Turkey. They also included the visits of more “serious” institutions, such as media outlets and political parties (such as the Justice and Development Party (AKP), the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and People’s Democratic Party- Kurdish based party (HDP). The visits also included the Greek Orthodox Patriarchy, Istanbul Armenian Patriarchy, Vatican Representatives, and Jewish Community Leaders. The USA Today article’s claim that the visits were limited exclusively by Hizmet-affiliated institutions is wrong. Even the visits to Hizmet-affiliated media outlets, such as newspaper Zaman, included conversations with and talks of various columnists, some of which were Hizmet symphathizers whereas several others were not. In fact, they had various backgrounds such as social democrats, liberals, etc.
3-The Pacifica Institute a not-for profit 501 (c) 3 organization registered to IRS. It focuses on education, interfaith-intercultural dialogue activities and community service.
These organizations, like the Pacifica Institute, are civic organizations inspired by Fethullah Gulen’s ideas. They are not “a religious group” or “sect” as implied in the article. The organizations are formed to promote a peaceful co-existence of different international ‘ways of life’ regardless of ethnicity, faith, color, or culture backgrounds.
In a broader sense, the Hizmet movement has set up hospitals, healthcare centers, disaster relief organizations, schools and charitable institutions around the world.
The USA Today’s authors, unfortunately, echoed the Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s hostile perspective to Hizmet. USA Today fails to note the Erdogan regime’s massive media suppression and human rights atrocities, which has targeted Hizmet. These are being reported on a regular basis in leading editorials and articles leading American and European newspapers.
On October 26, 2015, Reuters reported that the Turkish government has hired the international law firm, Amsterdam and Partners LLP based in London to investigate the worldwide activities of Fethullah Gulen’s Hizmet Movement. Is this perhaps, how the authors became influenced to write the provocative and misleading article?
We appreciate your continued cooperation and understanding. Please feel free to email us if you have any questions. Thank you for your continued support.