Saturday, January 18, 2014

The Movement, As Seen By Our Own Foreign Service

Over the past few months, I've been studying (yes this is an edit) all things Gulen, in preparation for some of the events we've been hosting including the above-advertised webinar on January 22.  It's the sort of reading that you wouldn't expect a member of the Legislature to do, obviously, because clearly none of them do it. It's easier just to go on a guided junket and have your thoughts formed for you.

Gulen-affiliated Concept Schools has charter proposals before the Chicago Board of Education, which is going to rule on these very same proposals next week. If they fail at CPS, it appears they have influence with the unelected, under-the-radar State Charter School Commission, which already authorized a Concept school in the past.

It's all so fascinating. But what really slays me are these Wikileaks documents: cables from the State Department about Gulen and the Movement.  There are a lot of State Department cables: this is just one from 2006, classified by Deborah K. Jones, who I believe is still a very senior Foreign Service person in Istanbul. Read the whole thing.

These observations all ring a bell.

As (visa)applicants, Gulenists are almost uniformly evasive about their purpose of travel and their relationships to Gulen, raising questions among Consular officers. Our unease is also shared by secular segments of Turkish society.


Applicants who we think may be affiliated with his movement come from a variety of backgrounds and apply across the full spectrum of visa classes as tourists, students and exchange visitors.

After interviewing hundreds of applicants whom we suspect are affiliated with Gulen,s movement, Consular officers have noticed that most of these applicants share a common characteristic: they are generally evasive about their purpose of travel to the United States and usually deny knowing or wanting to visit Gulen when questioned directly.


Consular officers in Ankara and Istanbul have noticed what appears to a purposeful "shifting" of applicant profiles appearing for visa interviews in what may be an effort by Gulenists to identify "successful" profiles. The most common profiles we have recognized over the past several years include: -- The young exchange visitor: Noted above as the first group that gained Consular officers, attention, these were predominately young, male college graduates applying for J-1 exchange visas to teach in science academies in the U.S. Most had some prior education or teaching experience in the Central Asian republics. We refused visas to the majority of these single males with limited work experience. One year later, in 2004, many of these applicants returned with H1-B petitions sponsored by Gulen-affiliated science academies. Interestingly, taking into account the processing time for H1-B visa petitions, it appears that the H1-B petition paperwork for these applicants may have been filed even before their J-1 visa interviews.


(C) In Turkey, Gulenist applicants, the majority with travel and work connections to these regions, have become a regular and growing part of the nonimmigrant visa applicant pool. We estimate that they comprise three to five percent of Mission Turkey,s annual NIV caseload of approximately 75,000 applicants. While on the surface a benign humanitarian movement, the ubiquitous evasiveness of Gulenist applicants -- coupled with what appears to be a deliberate management of applicant profiles over the past several years -- leaves Consular officers uneasy, an uneasiness echoed within Turkey by those familiar with the Gulenists.

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