Hudaybiyah and the Great Game: Gülen and the current peace negotiations

By Dr Aland Mizell:

Fethullah Gülen

Fethullah Gülen

Why Did Gülen Compare the Current Peace Negotiation between the Turkish Government and the PKK Leader Oçalan with the Truce of Hudaybiyah between the Prophet Mohammed and Non-Muslims?

I hope the Turkish government finally understands that peace cannot come by force, but rather that listening and talking can achieve it. The Turkish government chose direct talks with the Kurdish guerilla organization, the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK), and in this choice have been backed by some of the social groups including the global Muslim missionary group’s leader, Fethullah Gülen.  He recently showed his support for peace talks between the Turkish government and the PKK.

We all desire peace, but the Turkish government did not desire to meet the demands for achieving peace. We are all witnessing what is going on in the Arab Spring, observing that around the world freedom and peace go hand in hand. The Kurds too must have their freedom to run their own affairs, so than they can have peace.

Suddenly Fethullah Gülen has changed his mind about killing and destroying all the PKK members, now saying that the government should have a truce with the PKK. We all know peace is essential, and I salute him for supporting the peace process, but the question is why did Gülen compare the current peace effort with the peace truce between the non-Muslims and the Prophet Mohammed called Hudaybiyah? Is this the last great game the Turkish nation is playing on the Kurds?

Last year when Gülen told his followers that “God should burn the houses of those among us who deserve nothing but punishment,“ and criticized the army and state for not finishing off the PKK that has fought for thirty years, some of the Kurds, especially the PKK, claim that Gülen’s speech suggested a ”massacre strategy against the Kurds.” He prayed for their destruction, “Knock their homes upside down, destroy their unity, reduce their home to ashes, may their homes be filled with weeping and supplications, burn and cut off.” So what made Gülen so upset that he wanted the destruction of the Kurds? Reason shows that it was because there was competition between Gülen and the PKK in Southeastern Turkey.

Some of Gülen’s schools have been attacked by the PKK or Kurdish sympathizers and one or two of Gülen’s followers, who have been there as imams, have been killed. In the meantime Gülenists are supporting the case against the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK). Under the KCK operation the police closed down many Kurdish students’ houses, and imprisoned many Kurdish students as well as political leaders, NGOs workers, journalists, media owners, and whoever else supported the Kurdish cause, considering them as terrorists, who therefore ended up in jail or as part of the investigations into the KCK links with the PKK.

In my view Gülen is smart enough to see that it is about time for Turkey to have peace and give some basic rights to the Kurds, such as Kurdish education. A country simply cannot deny the basic rights that God has given for people to be educated in their native language. Gülen realized that the Kurds are more organized in Iran, Turkey, Syria, and Iraq, and that the New Middle East Projects will not be established without the Kurds. I believe that after the Palestinians get their independence and have a status of a country, the next to seek nationhood would be the Kurds. So for that reason Gülen realized that any major players in the region will sooner or later recognize the Kurdish reality. Without recognizing the Kurdish existence, they will not have power in the region. The Kurds are not going to be fooled, dragged into another round of conflict, and deceived by religious pedagogy.

What Gülen is trying to do is to convince the Kurds to find a solution to achieve their own goals. If someone has studied the history of Islam, he will clearly understand Gülen’s comparison of the current negotiations with the truce of Hudaybiyah. However, Gülen also knows that he cannot continue to put all the Kurds in jail, and that he has been successful in indoctrinating them as well. Therefore, since some of his hate speech did not help him achieve his goals in terms of the Kurds, he calculated that he had better use peaceful language. At least that gives him time to gain power and then to rule again.

If Turkey really wants peace and subsequently democratic rule of law, the Turkish government will have to decide if it will include the BDP, KCK and all other Kurdish political parties in the peace negotiations or will it just deal with the PKK leader Ocalan who has been in jail since 1999? The other important questions are: What is the role of the US in the peace process?  Who killed the three Kurdish women in France?  Why did Gülen’s followers suddenly talk about Ocalan’ spiritual status? Has Ocalan changed while he was in jail? Is this another great game with the Kurds to divide them between the Kurds and the BDP party? Why did Gülen give the example of the truce of Hudaybiyah? Why is the truce of Hudaybiyah important for Gülen? Does Gülen really want peace or is it because Gulenists need to expand in the region, their biggest obstacle is the Kurds, and that is why he wants to establish a truce– so that he can gain more power to expand? Can the Kurds win this game? Most importantly, will peace push through?

The Middle East and the world are in transition and looking for a new leader to lead.  The Middle East is a region where any political movement appears to be a rival to existing ones, a place where none is without a challenger. There is always competition between one another, and especially a rivalry between Turkey and Iran, both of which struggle regionally for influence in the Middle East but sometimes have refrained from open hostility.

Only recently Gülen and his community have become involved in the Kurdish issues. However, Gülen has infiltrated the Kurds and indoctrinated them going back to the early 1985. His activities include opening more than 100,000 houses, some with schools, setting up businesses, and recently establishing the Gaziantep Dunya TV broadcast in Kurdish. Earlier Gülen would never criticize the PKK or any other political party; instead, he would support whoever was in power and would play the opportunistic card, so that he would cheer for whoever would help his movement to advance his utopian society.  It is not rocket science to figure out the importance of Gülen’s support for peace with the PKK leader Ocalan, because once the Kurdish issues are solved or overcome, there will be no obstacles in Turkey’s path to becoming the hegemonic power.

Turkey occupies key strategic positions. When Turkey becomes powerful, then Gülen can extend his ideological Islamic model far and wide from ruling over the Arabs and balancing the Persians in the Middle East to challenging the Christians in Europe and in the Balkans to hindering even the Russians in Central Asia and the Caucasus. But when Turkey is weak and there are internal problems, its neighbors play the domestic issues card against Turkish growth.

In his latest weekly speech, broadcast on the website, Gülen said that as long as national dignity and pride are not undermined, then every necessary step should be taken to maintain peace because there are benefits to it. As the Islamic missionary leader for Turkey, Gülen contrasts the government’s peace negotiations involving the PKK leader Ocalan with the treaty of Hudaybiyyah, which took place between Muslims and non-Muslims in the early days of Islam in Mecca and Medina.

Even though some of the conditions seemed hard to accept at first, later they turned out to be to their benefit.  So Gülen wants to have peace not because Gulen really cares about the bloodshed of innocent Kurdish people but because Gülen’s interests are involved. The same Gülen has been silent for more than three decades, never criticizing those who oppressed the Kurds. Instead Gülen encouraged and praised the military and condemned those who condemned the atrocity committed against the Kurds. In his last year’s speech Gülen also spoke of measures that should be taken to help resolve the Kurdish problems including the opening up of five new dormitories in the city of Van, and sending imams into all the Kurdish provinces to indoctrinate Kurds to accepts his version of Islam, opening more schools, and letting teachers assimilate the Kurdish children. “If we only could have sent to that region imams who teach Islam to them, if these measures were taken before, we would not have any Kurdish problems,” Gülen argued. Gülenists even criticized the Kurdish imams who led the prayers and determined them to be not Muslim. Gülen and his followers believe there is no Kurdish problem, but the PKK and terrorists are the problem; however, they fail to address what caused the PKK to take arms and that same thing will help the PKK lay down their arms.

The importance of the Truce of Hudaybiyah:

Students of Islam analyze what makes the truce of Hudaybiyah a different victory than any other victory or unique from other truces. At the signing of the Hudaybiyya, some of Mohammed’s followers considered the truce as a humiliation and not a victory for Muslims, but the true meaning and victory became apparent later in what Mohammed called “a manifest victory.” During that time Mohammed was not very powerful because he had only about 1400-1500 followers. It was in Hijrah’s sixth year (after the Muslims migration to Madinah, AH) that Mohammed decided to make a pilgrimage to Mekkah to perform the Umrah as a display of respect and reverence for the Kabah, the birthplace of Mohammed. During the visit the Quraysh army intercepted Mohammed and his 1400 or more followers, preventing them from entering the city. When Mohammed heard that the army was coming, he altered his course and camped northwest of Makkah at a place called Hudaybiyah.

Mohammed sent a messenger to negotiate with the Quraysh to inform them of their peaceful intentions and of his desire to visit the Kabah. This surprise visit put the Quraysh tribe in a dilemma with very difficult positions.  If the Quraysh refused Mohammed and his followers an entry to the Kabah, they could outrage some of the Arab tribes; on other hand, allowing Mohammed and his followers to enter Mekkah would be considered as a political defeat for them. To negotiate with the Quraysh, Mohammed sent Uthman, who had significant respect among some of the Quraysh tribes. When Uthman was late in returning, the Muslims swore a pledge of revenge for the blood of Uthman and of death to the last man. However, Uthman was not killed and returned later unharmed. Subsequently, a treaty was signed between the Quraysh and the Muslims with the following conditions and terms of the Hudaybiyah peace intended to last ten years.

  • Muslims would not perform the Umrah that year; however, the following year they could return unarmed, except for a sword, to perform the Umrah and could stay more no more than three nights.
  • If anyone left Makkah to follow Mohammed, then the Muslims should hand him back, but if any Muslim joined the Quraysh or left Mohammed, they would not hand him back.
  • Furthermore, Mohammed was called a messenger of Allah in the original treaty, but that self-proclamation should be erased and replaced by his name, Mohammed ibn Abdullah.
  • The parties were allowed to make other allies.

One of the Quraysh joined Mohammed, and he begged him not to return him to his father. The other Quraysh insisted that if Mohammed  not would hand back Abu Jundal to his father who was not a Muslim, then they would not keep the treaty. Consequently, Mohammed returned Abu Jundal to his father. Because the deserter might be tortured for having tried to join Mohammed, one of Mohammed’s companions, Umar, argued with Mohammed, later to his regret, about why he handed Jundal back to his father. In that time companions of Mohammed felt that the conditions of the treaty were not fair and against them, and thus they were not happy with the terms, and thought the treaty looked like a humiliating defeat.

But, in fact, according to Islamic literature, the treaty was “an open victory” for the Muslims.  Why? First, before that event, the Quraysh and their allies were trying to destroy the state of Medina because of Mohammed’s growing power.  Some of the Jewish tribes had been expelled from Medina and had gone to join other Jewish allies north of Medina, which was supposed to be the center power of the Jewish people. Consequently, the Jews wanted revenge on the Muslims for expelling them from Medina or their place. Thus, the Jews formed alliances with other Arab tribes who did not like Mohammed, so non-Muslims threatened from the north and south, uniting against Mohammed.

Secondly, now that the Quraysh had a peace agreement with Mohammed, they would withdraw from attacking him, so that meant that Mohammed could deal with the Jews on the northern front without concern that the Quraysh tribes would attack from the south.  The Muslims conquered the north; therefore, the threat from the Jews was no longer there.  Another reason why Hudyabiyah was a victory for Muslims was that it was the first time the Quraysh had to recognize the Muslims and treat them as equals. One of the strongest tribes had joined Mohammed and that made the Muslims more powerful.

Fourthly and the most important reason, the peace of Hiudaybiyah gave Muslims a chance to spread Islam, so that two years after the treaty of Hudaybiyah Mohammed’s followers’ strength increased to 10,000 men who conquered Makkah with him, a more than 600% increase over the 1500 recruited before the treaty.  After he gained power, Mohammed sent letters to Heraclius of Rome and Chosroes of Persia to accept Islam or prepare for the consequences. Thus, the Treaty of Hudaybiyah catapulted the universality and growth of Islam.  The Treaty of Hudaybiyyah prepared Muslims to conquer Makkah, which was the spiritual and financial center for Arabs, laid the groundwork for many Arabs to accept Mohammed as their prophet, and prepared the Muslim army to fight the super powers of their time, Rome and Persia.  That is why the Hudaybiyah peace treaty was a victory for Muslims and why Gülen openly explains his use of it as an example and his rationale for why they need peace with the PKK.

In his comparison Gülen considers the PKK and Ocalan as the Quraysh, the non-Muslims, and the Turkish government as the Medina Islamic State. Comparing the two, Gülen considers that the Turkish government is right and just, and that the PKK and Ocalan are not just. He posits that if he recruits more, then he will bring peace even if he knows it will not be a reality; nevertheless, he firmly believes that when he has enough power, as Mohammed eventually did, then “the open victory” will come.

Another looming question is how is it that Gülen compares the Kurds to the idol worshipers, the Quraysh?  The Quraysh tribes expelled Mohammed from his birthplace; however, the Kurds are being deprived of their basics rights by the Turkish state, whom Gülen considers just. For Gülen the existence of the Kurds is the biggest obstacle for the greatness of Turkey and the Gülen movement in the region or for their becoming the leader of Islamic world, so in order to remove that obstacle, they have to remove the threat the way Mohammed removed the threats to his goals; they need some kind of peace that gives them time to gain power, a Hudaybiyah.

What is the role of Washington in the peace negotiations? The American government really never cared about the Kurds and always used them for its interests. The American government always shocked the Kurds by abandoning them for the great power, but at the end the Kurds are the only loyal ally for American national interests in the Middle East. The Obama Administration already has shifted its focus from the Middle East to South East Asia and has left the arena for the Turks and Iranians to compete, yet Obama strongly but mistakenly supports the Turks to be in charge, so the rise of the Turkish economy and its position as the gateway to Europe enhance its status. The biggest obstacle, however, is the Kurdish issue; without solving the Kurdish issues, the AKP cannot talk about a strong Turkey or the leadership of Turkey. Iran will use the Kurds for its domestic interest, Iraq will use them, Russia will use them, and Israel will use the Kurdish card against Turkey.

Therefore, Turkey has finally realized that there is no way out, so they had better have a truce with the PKK.  Not a long time ago, the U.S Ambassador to Turkey, Francis Ricciardone, offered help doing the same Osama Bin Ladin kind of operation for the top PKK leader in the Kandil Mountains, and the Turkish government was hesitant and for some reason did not accept it. Since America and Turkey are members of NATO, this kind of operation may not help other countries to support Turkey. I doubt that government will not take such help. I think this was leaked to the public and that is why the Turkish government has to decline the ambassador’s offer.

Now those aware of world affairs have to wonder who killed the three Kurdish women activists in Paris last week. The war on the Kurds has been going on for a long time with psychological warfare, media propaganda, threats, assassinations, kidnapping, and bombing. Using Kurds to kill other Kurds, Gülenists’ think tank in the USA are malevolently portraying a biased and distorted image of the Kurds to their people, at the same closing down any Kurdish NGO activists by charging them with terrorism, not leaving room for anyone to compete with them.

I condemn the killing and whoever participates in it, but also I do not trust the Turkish government, the religious group, or Gulen’s view that compares the Kurds with the Quraysh as non-Muslims versus Muslims who claim that they are going to bring peace and justice on earth. They all want to have total power and absolute rule.  The Gülen Movement is more dangerous to the Kurdish movement because he is very good at mixing both religious and nationalistic hormones to attract and manipulate the masses. Gülenists have already indoctrinated lots of poor Kurds in Turkey and want to control all aspects of their society.

Gülen’s followers, like their leader, have several personalities. The first personality, which is the visible one and the one known by the people, is that of a humble, loving and, even more, tolerant spiritual leader. Another personality of the Gülenists is that they desire to have total control and domination using the Machiavellian principles of forging secret plans and establishing political alliances through soft power to pursue his long-term plan of bringing back a Sunni theocratic Ottoman Empire. The third personality of the Gülenists is that they are opportunistic and like to befriend those with the greatest power to gain their own power.

The Kurdish question can be solved if Turkey is genuine and lets the Kurds run their own affairs and if Turkey accepts a multi-ethnic society where everyone is free to think and to worship according to the dictates of their own conscience.

Dr. Aland Mizell is with the University of Mindanao School of Social Science, President of the MCI and a regular contributor to The Kurdistan Tribune,, Mindanao Times and Kurdish Media.You may email the author

6 Responses to Hudaybiyah and the Great Game: Gülen and the current peace negotiations
  1. David
    January 17, 2013 | 09:59

    Gulen. Never want to take step back nor want to have Kurds to be free .Gulen is hunger for power, power total power thats is all he want . good article

  2. Suleiman
    January 17, 2013 | 15:53

    Why don’t you focus on the positive aspects of these peace talks instead of running around in circles finding reasons to take a hit on the peace talks!!! What do you really want? Do you peace talks or do you want to continue arms war? Or you just want to keep flaming things up because it’s easy for you to sit and judge from the comfort of your office while young people are in the mountains! I think it’s time to focus on the realities and what can be accomplished instead of who su what. I am tired of reading negative writing from people like you. Just try and mention something positive once. And by the way, we get it: you don’t like Islam much and hence your direct word “Mohamad” and the understatement of the number of Muslims t the time of hudaybiya truce. Also, would you Ramon’s elaborating why the Jewish tribes were driven out of medina? And the treaties they broke? Or that is not the topic here? Such a biased unacademic piece of writing

    • havel
      January 17, 2013 | 22:01

      It would be interesting to hear, Suleiman, what you want, exactly. We hear a lot about what you don’t want…. Thank you Dr Mizell for an interesting piece on the latest shifts by the powerful and unaccountable Gulen cult.

  3. Suleiman
    January 18, 2013 | 00:53

    I want full rights for the Kurds in Turkey and I also don’t want violence. I don’t believe PKK truly represents all the Kurds of Turkey. Gulen movement doesn’t represent the Turkish state, despite what people like to portray or believe, or else their big man would be atop the government in turkey. I think Turkish government has made some advancements towards the Kurdish rights and there is still a long way to go, but peace will not happen if we keep doubting every step of the way. A lot of those so-called friends of Kurds cruelly represent foreign interests and could care less if Kurds get freedom or not. We have to open our eyes and stop believing every tongue that runs around us.

  4. Matt
    January 18, 2013 | 02:57

    Suleiman: Sometimes truth is hurt. You and your cult leader Gulen no longer fool Kurds. you should ask your Cult leader should go back to Turkey and talk about peace. He escaped from going to Jail sitting in his Mention and talk about peace ad makes plan how to run the World. So tell me why he makes comparison with Hudaybiyah? that’s what you think to Kurds are Quraysh tribes? Do you have any clue about Qurays tribes? Actually I am sick tired of Gulen cult. Actually instead of Criticizing Dr Mizell for revealing truth to you, you should criticizing your cult for not talking about Prophed Mohamed ideas. How many times Gulenists give conferences about Prophet Mohamed and his great ideas about peace , interfaith dialogues etc? how many conference your cult gave about Gulen thousands , why do you disseminate Gulen more than Prophet Mohamed ? that’s what you should be asking question your cult leader? Great Job Dr. Mizell they cant silence us here . keep writing

  5. Suleiman
    January 18, 2013 | 14:21

    Just for the record: I have no connection with Gullen, have never met one from Gullen, and I am not even from Turkey, and quite honestly don’t give a dime about Gullen. No group or person has the power to claim representation of Islam, so Gullen can say whatever they want they will still just be another group.
    Matt: it’s convenient to just accuse people of things when you can’t respond to the obvious truth.

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