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Gulen Religious Group is officially designated as Terrorist by the Turkish Government

Erdogan accuses Gulen of conspiring to overthrow him by building a network of supporters in the media, judiciary and education

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2014 FILE - Turkish Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen is pictured at his residence in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania. Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan officially designated the religious movement of U.S.-based Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen a terrorist group, May 31, 2016. Image source: AP

President Tayyip Erdogan officially designated the religious movement of U.S.-based Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen a terrorist group and said he would pursue its members whom he accuses of trying to topple the government.

The move puts the organization built by his former ally legally on par with Kurdish militants currently fighting the army in Turkey’s southeast. Erdogan might use the designation in pressing Washington to extradite Gulen, a step U.S. authorities are nonetheless unlikely to take without concrete grounds.

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“We will not let those who divide the nation off the hook in this country,” Erdogan told flag-waving supporters upon arriving late on Monday in the coastal city of Izmir where he will observe military exercises.

Supporters of Gulen movement shout slogans during a protest outside the Kanalturk and Bugun TV building in Istanbul, Turkey, October 28, 2015. REUTERS/Osman Orsal/Files
Supporters of Gulen movement shout slogans during a protest outside the Kanalturk and Bugun TV building in Istanbul, Turkey, October 28, 2015. REUTERS/Osman Orsal/Files

“They will be brought to account. Some fled and some are in prison and are currently being tried. This process will continue.”

Erdogan said the cabinet had approved a decision to designate Gulen’s followers as the “Gulenist terror group”.

Erdogan, accused by his critics of an increasingly authoritarian style of rule, has long described Gulen as a terrorist. He seeks to break the cleric’s influence, built on a network of schools and companies in Turkey and abroad.

Worldwide operations

Affiliated media firms have been shut down or taken over, a bank seized, and hundreds of people detained. Thousands of the cleric’s followers in the police and judiciary have either lost their jobs or been reassigned.

Erdogan accuses Gulen of conspiring to overthrow him by building a network of supporters in the media, judiciary and education. Gulen denies the charges.

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The two were allies until police and prosecutors seen as sympathetic to Gulen opened a corruption investigation into Erdogan’s inner circle in 2013, 11 years after Erdogan’s AK Party was elected to power.

Gulen, who has lived in self-imposed exile in the United States for more than a decade, preaches Sunni Islam together with a message of interfaith dialogue. His movement, known as “Hizmet” or “Service” operates in Europe, the United States, Asia and Africa.

His followers say they are victims of an unfair crackdown. Last year, the Turkish government hired an international law firm to investigate the worldwide activities of the movement. (VOA)

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Nairobi Hosts International Conference on Population and Development

“I think we can all agree that ICPD was a turning point, a defining moment in our history," Crown Princess Mary said

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Nairobi, International, Conference
Denmark's Minister for Development Cooperation Rasmus Prehn, left, Crown Princess Mary of Denmark, center, and Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta, right, attend the International Conference on Population and Development summit in Nairobi, Nov. 12, 2019. VOA

Kenya is hosting a United Nations-coordinated conference on population and development this week in Nairobi.  Over 6,000 delegates from 160 nations, including heads of state, are attending the three-day forum to discuss reproductive health rights, ending gender-based violence, and sustainable development.

The U.N.’s International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) opened Tuesday with repeated vows made at the first summit in Cairo, twenty-five years ago.

Crown Princess Mary of Denmark, a co-host of the conference, underscored the significance of the summit.

“I think we can all agree that ICPD was a turning point, a defining moment in our history,” Crown Princess Mary said.  “In Cairo, the world articulated a bold new vision about the relationship between population, development and individual well-being and the empowering of women and meeting people’s needs for education and health, including sexual and reproductive health, are necessary for both individual advancement and balanced development.”

Nairobi, International, Conference
The U.N.’s International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) opened Tuesday with repeated vows made at the first summit in Cairo, twenty-five years ago. Pixabay

The summit aims to examine the progress made since a 1994 Program of Action drafted in Cairo.

More than 150 countries signed on to the plan, which placed women’s empowerment, individual dignity and human rights, and the right to plan one’s family at the heart of development.

In Nairobi Tuesday, heads of state stressed their countries’ policies and commitments to gender equality, sexual and reproductive health.

Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta pledged to end female genital mutilation (FGM) by 2022.

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Kenyatta was among African leaders who called also for ending child marriage.

“I believe that we can all commit to eliminate child marriages.  The percentage of young women between 20 and 24 years of age who are married before their 18th birthday has declined from 34 percent in 1994 to 25 percent in 2019,” said Kenyatta. “But the absolute number of girls under 18 who are at risk of child marriage is estimated at 10.3 million in 2019.”

Child marriage and sexual and reproductive healthcare are controversial issues in African nations where traditional cultures often clash with campaigns for individual rights.

In some countries like Kenya, laws that limit access to abortion services have fueled unsafe, often deadly, back-street abortions.

 

Nairobi, International, Conference
Crown Princess Mary of Denmark, a co-host of the conference, underscored the significance of the summit. Pixabay

At the conference Tuesday, the U.N.’s Deputy Secretary General Amina Mohammed tied women’s rights squarely to development.

“The power to choose the number, timing and spacing of children is a human right that can bolster well-being, economic and social development.  And when people can exercise their rights, they thrive,” said Mohammed. “And they do and, so do societies at large.”

To reach those goals, the Nairobi Conference on Population and Development is expected to produce pledges of financial support.

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But it will take more than money and talk to see some African nations enforce laws and regulations on gender equality and sexual and reproductive health. (VOA)