A Suggestion: Handling Erdogan’s Request for Gulen’s Extradition

By David North on July 21, 2016

Turkey’s autocratic president, Recep Erdogan, wants us to extradite Fethullah Gulen, the Muslim cleric and cult leader now living in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania, for allegedly stirring up the recent coup attempt.

Meanwhile, one of Erdogan’s emissaries, a little earlier, advocated the termination of the practice of bringing Turkish teachers to the United States, on H-1B visas, to replace U.S. teachers in the Gulen charter high schools.

Let me suggest, with tongue only partially in cheek, that we handle these two matters together, giving us a posture in which we stress our nation’s historic concern for the rule of law, and, simultaneously opening up jobs for hundreds of unemployed American high school teachers.

Now I would be perfectly happy to have Gulen, and his cult, leave the United States; he is, after all, seeking to reject the modernization that Ataturk brought to his country nearly 100 years ago. But that does not mean he should be sent back to Turkey for a show trial and perhaps an execution. Turkey, according to the papers, is thinking about restoring the death penalty (dropped when they wanted to join the European Union). An execution is not an appropriate punishment for repeated abuses of our immigration system, no matter how egregious.

Besides, we have a long and honorable history of providing a sanctuary for political exiles of one kind or another – think of Italy’s Garibaldi in the 19th Century, and Korea’s Syngman Rhee in the 20th, not that Gulen deserves to be included in the same sentence with the other two.

Erdogan is the leader, whether we like it or not, of a country that is important to us in our efforts to tamp down the chaos in the Middle East. We should not be in the position of rejecting all of his requests/demands, particularly when one of them is rational.

So, the Departments of State should simultaneously say that Gulen is not to be extradited and Labor should proclaim that Erdogan, on the other hand, is right: there is no need to hire aliens in our schools, as we have plenty of excellent, unemployed, resident school teachers.

The irony of the second part of the proposed package is that it would – at Erdogan’s own urging – cause a substantial number of Gulen’s allies to stay in Turkey and not secure what must look like to them to be cushy jobs on this side of the pond.

It would also, in addition to opening up jobs for resident school teachers, lift the average level of English proficiency among the faculties of the Gulen high schools – all, by the way, are funded 99 percent by U.S. taxpayers.