Director of Religious Affairs targets Gülen movement supporters in Bosnia

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ANKARA, TURKEY - FEBRUARY 17: Turkish Head of the Religious Affairs Directorate, Mehmet Gormez speaks to the local and foreign media during a press conference in Ankara, Turkey on February 17, 2017. AFP

Mehmet Görmez, the director of Turkey’s Religious Affairs Directorate, has targeted Gülen movement followers in Bosnia, Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency reported on Wednesday.

Görmez, who met with Husein Kavazovic, the grand mufti (Reis ul-Ulema) of Bosnia and Herzegovina, during a visit to Bosnia, “warned” Bosnians about Gülen supporters and said, “Not only in Turkey but all over the world, our Muslim brothers and sisters have to protect their children and futures from FETÖ [a derogatory term used by the government circles to refer to the faith-based Gülen movement] and similar movements.”

Turkey survived a military coup attempt on July 15 that killed over 240 people and wounded more than a thousand others. Immediately after the putsch, the government along with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.

Despite Gülen and the movement having denied the accusation, Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government launched a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.

The Cologne-based Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DİTİB) came under fire for involvement in espionage and spying on followers of Fethullah Gülen.

The Big Brother Award 2017 was given to DİTİB in the category of politics for its spying on critics of President Erdoğan. The Big Brother Awards have since 2000 been bestowed by digital rights organization Digitalcourage on companies, organizations and individuals in Germany “who act in a prominent and sustained way to invade people’s privacy or leak (personal) data to third parties,” according to the group’s website.

In February, the coordinator of DİTİB, Murat Kayman, announced his resignation over the allegations and German police teams raided the apartments of four DİTİB imams in North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate who were suspected of acting as informants.

The Federal Public Prosecutor’s Office (GBA) said in a statement that the imams had acted on an order issued on Sept. 20 of last year by the directorate to profile Gülen movement sympathizers.

In March, GBA launched an investigation into Halife Keskin, the foreign relations general manager of Turkey’s Religious Affairs Directorate, over his order to Turkey’s diplomatic missions and imams to gather information on people sympathetic to the Gülen movement.

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