The GUlenists in Exile: Reviving the Movement as a Diaspora

Hakkı Taş (2019) The Gülenists in Exile: Reviving the Movement as a Diaspora. GIGA Focus Paper, Middle East (3). Hamburg: GIGA. Full Text

Excerpt: Facing a heavy-handed crackdown since the 15 July 2016 abortive coup, many Gülenists are fleeing Turkey and seeking refuge mostly in European countries. With this ongoing influx, a Gülenist diaspora is in the making. The fall from grace and the traumatic experience of exile have paved the way for heated internal debates on what went wrong and how the movement may start over. Although the Gülen movement has heavily invested in the Global South, most followers have sought refuge in Western democratic countries, where the rule of law may protect them better from the Turkish state’s aggression. Since 2016, the number of asylum seekers from Turkey has increased five-fold in the European Union; many of them belong to this movement. Strikingly, the Gülenists in exile live in a comfort zone, diminishing the odds of reform happening: the movement’s victim status enables it to swim with the tide of anti-Erdoğan sentiment in the West, while its modern, non-violent, eager-to-integrate stance – standing in contrast to many other Islamic movements – appeals to Western policymakers.

Painting © Julie Mehretu, “The In-between Place”

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