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Turkey: How Durable is Gülen Movement?

Could the Gülen Movement stay on course without its founder and Turkish theologian, Fethullah Gülen. (Photo: fethullahgulen.org)

Turkish spiritual leader Fethullah Gülen, 72, has long been rumored to be in a precarious state of health. But well-informed followers offer assurances that the international network of schools, businesses, media-outlets, and civil-society organizations that his movement has built is prepared for a stable transition.

Gülen, who is widely acknowledged as one of the most influential Turkish theologians of his generation, has lived a quiet existence on a rural estate in the US state of Pennsylvania for the past 14 years. He is known to have diabetes, problems with the nerves in his knees and a weak immune system. "Any small sickness could have a big influence on him," said Mustafa Yeşil, the head of the Istanbul-based Journalists and Writers Foundation, one of the movement's most prominent organizations.

Yeşil, who meets with Gülen in the United States about once a month, said the movement's founder rarely goes outside. "Even this change of weather could be risky for him."

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Justin Vela is a freelance reporter based in Istanbul.

Turkey: How Durable is Gülen Movement?

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