Sunday, July 24, 2016

Turkey’s Failed Coup Puts Spotlight on a Rural Pennsylvanian Town - WSJ

Turkey’s Failed Coup Puts Spotlight on a Rural Pennsylvanian Town - WSJ:

Turkey’s Failed Coup Puts Spotlight on a Rural Pennsylvanian Town
Accusation by Erdogan that cleric Fethullah Gulen plotted the takeover has stirred up the sleepy community where he lives



Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan pinned the coup attempt that gripped the country on a self-exiled cleric living in the U.S. named Fethullah Gulen. Gulen denies any involvement. Here's a closer look at this influential preacher. 

SAYLORSBURG, Pa.— Chris Fehnel, who lives near this Pocono Mountains town, was bored one day last year, so he and a friend pulled up to a former summer camp where Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen lives.
“We asked the guard if we could go inside,” Mr. Fehnel, 22 years old, recalled recently while sitting outside Scorecard Sports Bar and Grill down the road.
The request led to a little adventure that took on new significance for him this week, when Mr. Gulen was accused by Turkish President  Recep Tayyip Erdogan of plotting a coup from his compound in the woods here, about 90 miles from New York City.
“I have a message for Pennsylvania,” President Erdogan announced, amid arrests in Turkey of thousands of soldiers and teachers with alleged links to Mr. Gulen and his network of charter schools. Mr. Erdogan called on the U.S. to extradite the cleric for his alleged role in the July 15 coup, which the Turkish government has said killed more than 250 people.
The accusation, which Mr. Gulen denies, shined an extraordinary light on this sleepy community of about 1,100 people. News is typically so slow here that a car accident in May involving Mr. Fehnel was a top story in the local paper because it caused a traffic jam. A main attraction is an 11-acre corn maze called Mazezilla; another draw is a Hindu ashram, Arsha Vidya Gurkulam, that sometimes is mistaken for the Turkish retreat.
The entrance to the Golden Generation Worship and Retreat Center, run by Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, in rural Saylorsburg, Pa., is seen in this 2014 photo. Mr. Gulen, who Turkey alleges was the mastermind of the recent coup attempt, has lived at the private compound for more than 15 years. ENLARGE
The entrance to the Golden Generation Worship and Retreat Center, run by Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, in rural Saylorsburg, Pa., is seen in this 2014 photo. Mr. Gulen, who Turkey alleges was the mastermind of the recent coup attempt, has lived at the private compound for more than 15 years. PHOTO:CHARLES MOSTOLLER/REUTERS
The drama at the cleric’s retreat “sure makes this town more interesting,” said a man walking through the ashram in a traditional Indian white dhoti.
On Saturday, some protesters supporting President Erdogan pulled up in front of the ashram and began calling for Mr. Gulen to go back to Turkey and turn himself in. They were soon redirected about a mile and a half down some winding roads to a former summer camp with a small sign outside that says Golden Generation.
The 26-acre property was purchased for about $250,000 in 1992 by the Golden Generation Foundation, according to Yuksel Alp Aslandogan, executive director of a Gulen-affiliated nonprofit in New York called Alliance for Shared Values, who was in Saylorsburg to field questions over the Turkish government’s allegations.
Mr. Gulen, 77, moved here in 1999, Mr. Aslandogan said, because it was “a tranquil, beautiful environment not far from New York City.”
Roughly 120 protesters found their way to the entrance and began a “peaceful protest,” according to State Police public information officer David Peters. It was one of a handful of protests in the past few years, since Mr. Gulen had a falling out with his onetime ally President Erdogan.
An aerial view of the Golden Generation Worship and Retreat Center in Saylorsburg, Pa., in July 2013. ENLARGE
An aerial view of the Golden Generation Worship and Retreat Center in Saylorsburg, Pa., in July 2013. PHOTO:REUTERS
At Mr. Gulen’s request, Mr. Aslandogan said, Mr. Erdogan’s supporters were offered juice and snacks “to show them our attitude.” Most refused.
The retreat is on a rural street, where small ranch houses mingle with old wooden barns and farms.
An elderly woman outside a house next door said police advised her to block off her driveway over the weekend in anticipation of protests. She said she has lived in the house for more than 50 years and asked not to be named.
“I have never seen the guy,” she said. “I don’t believe he exists.”
Golden Generation hosts dozens of visitors at a time, mainly from Turkey, in a group of Turkey’s Failed Coup Puts Spotlight on a Rural Pennsylvanian Town - WSJ:


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