For The Los Angeles Times:
Istanbul — For much of the last month, in squares across Turkey, hundreds of thousands gathered for a “democracy watch” — part celebration of the failure of a bloody coup attempt that killed hundreds, and part an expression of determination to find and punish those responsible.
But not everyone poured into the streets. “It’s right to be proud of what is achieved against the failed coup and traitors,” said Orhan, a middle-aged teacher from Istanbul who asked that his full name not be used for his safety. “But on the other hand, a witch hunt started, and looking at my friends now I feel like a Jew under Hitler’s rule.”
Orhan belongs to Hizmet, a movement of millions of Turks inspired by the teachings of Fethullah Gulen, a 75-year-old cleric living in exile in Pennsylvania. Although Gulen’s public teachings center on a moderate form of Sufi Islam, his critics say he is the head of a cult that has masked a plan to infiltrate much of Turkey’s government and military infrastructure.
The Turkish government this month formally asked the U.S. to arrest and extradite Gulen, alleging he used followers in the military to engineer an uprising that threatened to plunge the country back into the cycle of military intervention that has beset the nation since 1960.
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