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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
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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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The Next Big Advance In Technology May Come From Africa

Toybox co-Founder Kanina Foss says Africa is an ideal springboard for innovation, with its rich artistic talent and traditions.

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Technology, robot, inventions
The mock killer robot was displayed in London in April 2013 during the launching of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, which calls for the ban of lethal robot weapons that would be able to select and attack targets without any human intervention. (VOA)

From a young age, Phatwa Senene knew he wanted to be an inventor.

He got his start at age 11, he said, when he attached a DC motor to a fan. He then attached the fan to a drill and proceeded to drill holes into his bedroom wall. His invention worked, he said: The fan blew away the dust from the drilling.

“That was my first invention that I can recall,” he said, laughing. “My mom didn’t like it at all.”

He nearly hit a figurative wall years later, when he tried to go to university, but found he couldn’t afford it. His family was poor, he said, and he grew up in a Johannesburg township.

But the now-33-year-old plowed ahead, coming up with innovative inventions, like a data-collecting, 3D-printed solar-powered streetlamp, that have caught the attention of South African municipalities and companies.

Two of his new streetlamps, which are capable of tracking data like noise levels and air quality, are being piloted in inner city Johannesburg.

Toybox for inventors

It’s that creativity and innovation that have also caught the attention of African technology innovators, who are hoping to turn this unique idea into profit. Senene is a member of a new Johannesburg tech innovation hub, called Toybox, that gives inventors, artists and tinkerers room to work, a community to work with, and business support to get their inventions off the drawing board and into the real world.

Co-founder Arlene Mulder, who previously started WeThinkCode, an institution that teaches young South Africans about coding and software engineering, says Africa is often overlooked as a source for ideas and invention. She wants to change that, by supporting local inventors and giving them room to grow.

Inventions
Toybox co-founders Arlene Mulder and Kanina Foss say their tech innovation project aims to link Africa’s rich talents in art and innovation with the growing need for innovative technology in the developing world. VOA

“We’ve been seeing, over the last couple of years, incredibly talented inventors coming up with incredible inventions, but they are struggling to bring these inventions to life,” she tells VOA. “So we are creating this ecosystem and platform for them to come together, and we provide access to the global world.”

In exchange for its services, the hub gets a portion of the revenue the inventors end up making. There are similar places operating elsewhere in South Africa as well as Kenya and Rwanda.

Welcome support

Senene says he appreciates the support. It was hard to get ahead flying solo.

“You can be an inventor all day, but you still need to eat, you need to run a business,” he said. “So, as an inventor, I had to go through the process where you learn about business. And all of that for me was self-taught. There’s no one in my family who would set a path for me, there was no one who guided me, so, trial and error, I learned the hard way.”

Toybox co-Founder Kanina Foss says Africa is an ideal springboard for innovation, with its rich artistic talent and traditions.

Inventions
Toybox founder Arlene Mulder views a project that their tech innovation hub was involved in, a Virtual Reality exhibition at a Johannesburg art gallery. VOA

“Some of the cool stuff our fellows are doing include leveraging the intersections between technologies and the creative disciplines, so that we can use artists to really push the barriers on what tech can do,” she said.

Senene, the inventor, says his inspiration comes from some unexpected places. One of his recent innovations is a “tombstone tracker,” a tool meant to find stolen grave markers, which has been a problem in South Africa.

Also Read: A Study of Africa’s Bush Elephants

“What inspires me is my environment,” he said. “So many of my devices have been inspired by the places that I’ve lived in, especially the problems. So, I’m very sensitive to negativity, to horrible things, and that allows me to identify them, and I have an ability to try to come up with a solution.”

If he finds a solution, places like Toybox will be ready to help him develop and market the idea. (VOA)