A recent investigative report by Nordic Monitor uncovered a covert operation carried out by Turkish intelligence at Respect Graduate School in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, has been uncovered. Spanning from 2020 to 2023, this operation centered on the school’s administrative and teaching staff, along with 86 individuals, including US citizens and residents associated with the institution. Significantly, the private information gathered on these individuals was then transmitted back to Turkey.
The primary focus of this surveillance was the school’s Master of Arts in Islamic Studies program. This particular area of study garnered the attention of Turkish intelligence, likely due to its emphasis on interfaith teaching and dialogue programs. Such academic pursuits were perceived as a potential ideological challenge by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s administration, which has historically expressed skepticism and criticism towards interfaith dialogue efforts, particularly those between Islam and Christianity.
This intelligence operation appears to be a segment of a broader strategy, potentially linked to Turkey’s ongoing crackdown on the Gülen movement, a group diametrically opposed to the Erdogan government. Fethullah Gülen, a Turkish Muslim scholar residing in northeastern Pennsylvania and the inspiration behind the movement, has been a consistent target of Erdogan’s policies since 2013.
The intelligence compilation task was assigned to “Institution V,” a coded reference to the Foreign Ministry Security and Research Directorate within the Turkish Foreign Ministry. This unit, under the leadership of Fatma Ceren Yazgan, a seasoned operative of the Turkish intelligence agency MIT, signifies the high-level state involvement and the strategic nature of this surveillance operation.
Read the full report with the original documents at Nordic Monitor