AURORA, Colo. -- We’re thousands of miles from the trouble in Turkey after a failed attempt to overthrow the government. But some Coloradans are feeling the backlash.
They are supporters of Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who is accused of spearheading the uprising. The Multicultural Mosaic Foundation is a nonprofit established by Turkish-Americans in Colorado in 2003.
Their main source of inspiration is Gulen. Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Gulen and his supporters are terrorists. But Gulen's supporters say that claim is laughable.
After the gunfire rang out and more than 265 people died, government supporters stopped the military from overthrowing Erdogan.
"To see bombs thrown at bridges, military attack civilians, this is heart break," said Ismail Akbulut, president of Multicultural Mosaic Foundation in Aurora.
For Akbulut, of Superior, that wouldn't be the end of it. The accusations came next.
"They held the movement responsible for what was going on in Turkey," he said.
Multicultural Mosaic Foundation is affiliated with the Gulen movement, named after the famed cleric, who Turkey's president called the head terrorist who plotted the uprising.
But Akbulut said Gulen's movement is about peace, pro-democracy and bringing people together without religion or politics.
"He preached for more than 40 years nonviolence. He is referenced as the Turkish Mahatma Gandhi," he said.
But accusations by Erdogan still spark anger.
"People who we called friends in the U.S., in Colorado, wrote on Facebook, called us terrorists, threatened us," said Akbulut.
One message said, "If you truly like Turkey and you would like to do something good, go ahead destroy yourself because we don't want to make our hands dirty."
Another said in an email: “I don't want to be subscribed on the list of a terrorist group trying to overthrow a democratically-elected government ..."
"We have a culture center here. We feel we could be attacked by supporters of Erdogan," Akbulut said.
Erdogan supporters already vandalized a cultural center affiliated with Gulen in Lyon, France.
"Turkey was doing a few years ago a good job promoting democracy. Now it's turning into a dictatorship," said Akbulut.
Erdogan demanded the United States extradite Gulen to Turkey from Pennsylvania. And the U.S. said it will if Turkey has evidence of Gulen's involvement in the coup.AlertMe