In the quiet town of Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania, Turkey’s most wanted terror suspect lives in a self-imposed exile. Fetullah Gülen, whose Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) is blamed for last year’s foiled coup attempt in Turkey and various other crimes, is the special guest of a retreat run by the Golden Generation Foundation, an offshoot of his sprawling empire spanning companies and schools all across the globe. The Golden Generation Worship and Retreat Center, established in a 100-acre land in Saylorsburg, is the place where Gülen has lived since he traveled to the United States for “treatment” in 1999.
The foundation, named after Gülen’s ambition to train such a generation, apparently for the nefarious purpose of seizing power, has seen an astronomical rise in its revenues since 2013, the year when FETÖ openly declared a war against Turkey and launched its first two coup attempts to topple the government. The tax-exempt foundation had only $914,000 in revenues that year and in 2015, it skyrocketed to more than $5 million. This sudden surge is linked to the fact that more and more members of the terrorist group are seeking shelter in the United States and that donations are pouring in to support the lives of those terror suspects who fled Turkey.
The Golden Generation acquired nonprofit organization status in 1994 in the United States and was a little-known organization until the FETÖ leader employed its services for his lengthy stay.
The foundation’s declaration of revenues to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in the United States show it reaped revenues amounting to only $914,376 in 2013 and it suddenly rose to more than $1 million in the following year. It has gradually increased since and reached to more than $5.2 million in 2015. Interestingly, the expenditures of the foundation did not change much during that period despite the astronomical rise. Expenditure was $929,000 in 2014 and $970,000 in 2015.
The rapid rise in revenues coincides with Turkey’s crackdown on the terrorist group after it was designated a national security threat in 2014. A barrage of trials followed and authorities issued arrest warrants for hundreds of people. The arrest warrants raised over time and considerably increased after the coup attempt that killed 248 people across Turkey. It is suspected that donations to the foundation rose in an attempt to support the lives of fugitive FETÖ members who seek to be close to Gülen, a revered cult figure they are devoted to. Turkish media outlets recently reported that FETÖ members acquired properties near the retreat and plan to build houses for fugitive members.
The Golden Generation is run by Joseph A. Polat, Hüseyin Çopur and Sezai Sablak. Sablak earlier drew the attention of Turkish prosecutors as his name came up in investigations against FETÖ a couple of times. He is currently on trial for membership of a terrorist organization and financing terrorism but like other members of the group, he refuses to return to Turkey for the trial. The trial is about The Respect Institute, another FETÖ-linked organization, and Sablak serves as vice president of the institute, which is also known for its donations to Democrats, including former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. An investigation into The Respect Institute has revealed that some 147 people from Turkey, all FETÖ suspects, donated more than $2 million in total to the institute between 2013 and 2014. Sablak also runs several companies which are apparently front companies as their phone numbers are same with the numbers of the retreat.
The Golden Generation is only one of the numerous nonprofit organizations and private companies linked to FETÖ in the United States. Gülenists run a vast network of schools around the globe, but are primarily invested in charter schools in the United States. The schools receive government funding but operate independent of the public school system. Dozens of schools associated with FETÖ are facing criticism and are under investigation over the alleged misuse of federal grants and the abuse of a visa scheme being used to funnel foreign teachers into charter schools who are brought from Turkey to live in the United States.