Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen has said that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is turning a recent failed putsch attempt in Turkey into a slow-motion coup of his own against constitutional government.
In an op-ed published in The New York Times on Monday, Gülen emphasized the United States must not accommodate Erdoğan, “an autocrat who is turning a failed putsch into a slow-motion coup of his own against constitutional government,” for the sake of worldwide efforts to restore peace as well as to safeguard the future of democracy in the Middle East.
Gülen repeated in his piece titled “I Condemn All Threats to Turkey’s Democracy” that he holds forth that a government should be won through a process of free and fair elections, not force. “I pray to God for Turkey, for Turkish citizens, and for all those currently in Turkey that this situation is resolved peacefully and quickly,” he said.
Referring to Erdoğan’s accusations that he was behind the failed military coup attempt on July 15, Gülen said, “Not only does Mr. Erdoğan’s suggestion run afoul of everything I believe in, it is also irresponsible and wrong.”
Gülen further explained that his philosophy — inclusive and pluralist Islam, dedicated to service to human beings from every faith — is antithetical to armed rebellion.
“For more than 40 years, the participants in the movement that I am associated with — called Hizmet, the Turkish word for “service” — have advocated for, and demonstrated their commitment to, a form of government that derives its legitimacy from the will of the people and that respects the rights of all citizens regardless of their religious views, political affiliations or ethnic origins. … At a time when Western democracies are searching for moderate Muslim voices, I and my friends in the Hizmet movement have taken a clear stance against extremist violence, from the Sept. 11 attacks by Al Qaeda to brutal executions by the Islamic State to the kidnappings by Boko Haram,” Gülen added.
The scholar underlined that having been subjected by military regimes to harassment and wrongful imprisonment during the four military coups in four decades in Turkey, he would never want his fellow citizens to endure such an ordeal again.
“Nevertheless, Mr. Erdoğan’s accusation is no surprise, not for what it says about me but rather for what it reveals about his systematic and dangerous drive toward one-man rule,” he said.
Gülen reminded that the Hizmet movement’s participants, like many Turkish cizitens, had supported Erdoğan’s early efforts to democratize Turkey and fulfill the requirements for membership in the European Union.
“But we were not silent as he turned from democracy to despotism,” he said, calling to mind arbitrary shut down of newspapers; removal of thousands of judges, prosecutors, police officers and civil servants from their positions and the harsh measures taken against Kurdish communities.
“Even before these new purges [in the aftermath of the attempted coup] … he [Erdoğan] has declared his detractors enemies of the state,” Gülen explained.
“Since 2014, when Mr. Erdoğan was elected president after 11 years as prime minister, he has sought to transform Turkey from a parliamentary democracy into an ‘executive presidency,’ essentially without checks on his power. In that context, Mr. Erdoğan’s recent statement that the failed coup was a “gift from God” is ominous,” Gülen also pointed out in the piece.
Stating that the human right advocacy organization Amnesty International revealed “credible” reports of torture, including rape, at detention centers, Gülen said, “No wonder Mr. Erdoğan’s government suspended the European Convention on Human Rights and declared a state of emergency.”
Gülen emphasized that the US must resist the temptation to give Erdoğan whatever he wants and refuse his demand of extradition.
“Violent extremism feeds on the frustrations of those forced to live under dictators who cannot be challenged by peaceful protests and democratic politics. In Turkey, the Erdoğan government’s shift toward a dictatorship is polarizing the population along sectarian, political, religious and ethnic lines, fueling the fanatics,” Gülen concluded.
A group of rebel soldiers, acting out of chain of command, attempted a military coup at around 10 p.m. on July 15, which left more than 200 people – including civilians – dead.
The Turkish government managed to suppress the coup attempt and launched a large-scale crackdown across the country on media, public servants, judges, prosecutors and teachers, along with rebels within the army. The detentions, arrests and massive purges that followed the crackdown widened and increased after a state of emergency was declared on July 20, concentrating power formally into the hands of Erdoğan by allowing him and his cabinet to make laws by fiat.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has accussed the Gülen movement of being behind the coup attempt and demanded extradition of Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen from the US. Thousands of public servants, judges, prosecutors and journalists were detained by the Turkish police for allegedly having links to the Gülen movement.
The Gülen movement, also known as the Hizmet movement, is a grassroots social initiative inspired by Gülen and carries out charitable activities all around the world, including education, distributing humanitarian aid and providing drinking water especially in African countries.
The Gülen movement is not considered to have influence over the Turkish military, which is known for its Kemalist roots that is against the Gülen movement. The rebel military officials who attempted to stage a coup named themselves as “Council of Peace At Home,” in a declaration they forcibly had delivered via the state-run broadcaster TRT on Friday night. The name is a reference to “Peace at home, peace in the world,” which is a famous saying by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Republic of Turkey.
Since a corruption investigation erupted on Dec. 17, 2013 and led to the resignation of four Cabinet ministers, Erdoğan has launched a witch hunt targeting shop owners, teachers, members of the judiciary, journalists and police officers who are accused of being affiliated with the Gülen movement, which is also known as the Hizmet movement. The graft probe implicated then-Prime Minister Erdoğan, members of his family and senior Justice and Development Party (AK Party) figures.
Erdoğan accused the Gülen movement of plotting to overthrow his government and said that sympathizers of the movement within the police department had fabricated the corruption scandal. Since then, hundreds of police officers have been detained and some arrested for alleged illegal activity in the course of the corruption investigation. Erdoğan openly said he would carry out a “witch hunt” against anyone with links to the movement. The Gülen movement strongly rejects the allegations brought against it.