This year I am celebrating the 10th anniversary of Charterschoolwatchdog, a blog site that I started to bring public awareness about the Gulen Movement and in particular; how that movement has affected United States’ educators, students, and tax payers -- all of whom have been naively and involuntarily swept into a firestorm of deception led by an alleged Turkish terrorist named Fethullah Gulen.
Gulen, a Turkish Imam -- lives quietly in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania, all the while orchestrating a criminal element that has infiltrated and exploited the United States’ educational system and by proxy – United States’ tax payers for the past 17 years.
I started teaching late in life, fulfilling a life-long dream. From an early age, I use to gather my little brothers, sisters, and neighborhood kids to teach “summer school,” in my next -door neighbor’s basement.
I did not get my teaching degree until I was 51 and was delighted when I was finally able to teach in a real grown-up school, one not hidden away in a dank, dark basement. But my teaching aspirations and related career was short-lived when I made the unfortunate mistake of taking a job in a “Gulen-inspired” school. That was a doorway that I truly wish I had never walked through, but I did.
It was at the school that I met my husband, a Turkish teacher who was hired to be the IT Administrator, but was instead thrown into a classroom to teach, despite having no teaching experience or desire to do so. Like so many of the H1-B visa holding Gulenists brought over from Turkey, he had no teaching experience, limited English language skills, and no choice but to follow Gulen’s edicts or be sent back to Turkey.
And then it began – a journey that I would have never imagined would have lasted 10 years and with no future end in sight.
It was my husband who told me about Fethullah Gulen and the illegal activities that the Gulen-inspired schools were participating in. He was a member of the Gulen Movement, as are all the H1-B visa holders at their schools. Of course, they did then, and still do, deny their affiliation; but the plain and simple truth is that unless you are a card carrying Gulenist, you do not get the opportunity to “teach” in the United States on a H1-B visa.
I recently participated in an interview and was asked how my discovery of the Gulen Movement and its related machinations had affected my life, and to put it simply – it destroyed my teaching career, my marriage, and attempted – but was unsuccessful – in destroying my credibility.
It was never my intention to morph into a decade old advocacy, or someone that would spend the last 10 years canvassing the country -- exposing Gulen and his followers and how their actions have impacted American educators, administrators, students, and tax-payers.
When I started this 10 years ago, there were 110 schools, and now there are 173 and growing. In those ten years I have watched as hundreds of our politicians took free trips to Turkey and gladly accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign funds. And with the acceptance of free trips and campaign funding, came the growth spurt of Gulen-inspired schools.
Tit for tat, I suppose. But isn’t their political loyalty displaced, after all, it’s the United States’ citizens that vote them into office, not Gulen and his cronies? Is it worth the free baklava, which is only a momentary pleasure whereas one’s integrity is life-long?
For ten years, I have been interviewed by news stations, news programs, newspapers, participated in panel discussions, attended school board meetings, and participated in 3 documentaries on this subject. And yet – nothing changes, at least very little does.
But I soldier on, repeating my story, sounding like a scratched record playing itself over and over.
In a recent interview with the BBC, I was asked if I regretted that I had ever started any of this. My answer was and always will be an unquestionable – no.
Sure, I mourn the loss of my budding teaching career and the loss of my marriage – both casualties of my advocacy. But in no way do I regret the impact, as small as it may be – that I have made in exposing Gulen, his followers, and their criminal activities.
I made the choice to forfeit my teaching career when I began my journey investigating the Gulenists. I could have ignored the information about their criminal activities, like so many others have before and after me, but instead, I chose to expose them.
Was it the smartest choice – probably not? But at least I know that it was the right choice, and the only choice that I could live with.
As I told the gentlemen from the BBC, if it takes another 10 years to bring an end to this and finally get the United States’ politicians and tax-payers to wake up and take back their schools and taxes, then so be it --- because quite simply – I will not stop until that resolution and reality comes to fruition.
Cheers – to the next 10 years!