The name of Fetullah Gulen, a 75-year-old US-based Turkish cult leader, has frequently been heard since he was charged with orchestrating the 15 July failed coup attempt in Turkey. Gulen started his movement with sermons and establishing student houses in the city of Izmir where he worked as an imam in the early 1970s. Educational institutions, prep-schools, foundations, newspapers and television stations followed. The movement expanded its activities to a total of 160 countries as of the 2000s. Today, Gulen remains the head of a vast network of media institutions, schools, non-governmental organizations, television channels, hospitals, banks and insurance companies. He has turned into a powerful business and political figure from his beginnings as a humble imam.
Gulen encouraged his followers in his sermons in the 1990s to infiltrate state institutions and fill in whereever there is an empty slot. Several investigations showed that Gulen’s followers indeed infiltrated important state institutions such as the judiciary, the police, the public sector and the military. Their suspected involvement in some of the assassinations that took place in the 2000s is also being investigated. Following a National Security Council meeting in May 2016, the Turkish government officially designated the movement as a terrorist organization, naming it the Fetullah Terror Organization, better known by its Turkish acronym FETO.