Nineteen military personnel were detained on Thursday across Turkey as part of a Trabzon-based operation targeting alleged members of the faith-based Gülen movement, Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency reported.
According to the report 19 were detained in operations in nine provinces and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (KKTC). Two cadets who were among the detainees were dismissed as part of a witch-hunt targeting the Gülen movement following a coup attempt in Turkey on July 15, 2016.
Detention warrants were issued on Sept. 29 for 117 former and active duty officers of various ranks across 45 Turkish provinces as part of an İzmir-based operation targeting alleged members of the movement.
The Gülen movement is accused by the Turkish government of mounting the coup attempt, but the movement strongly denies any involvement.
One hundred thirty generals and admirals in the Turkish military were either dismissed or suspended as part of a widespread purge following the failed coup.
The government has been at the center of criticism for turning the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) into a political Islamist military in line with the wishes of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
In February Defense Minister Fikri Işık said 30,000 new recruits would be enlisted in the TSK. A month later Işık declared that the government had dismissed a total of 22,920 military personnel (6,511 officers and 16,409 cadets) after the coup attempt although the Turkish military stated on July 27 that only 8,651 military members including cadets and conscripts took part in the failed coup.
The Cumhuriyet daily reported in March that the government plans to investigate 90,000 more military personnel over links to the Gülen movement.
Regulations that task retired officers and noncommissioned officers with recruiting cadets and military personnel went into effect in January amid debates that it was a gift to SADAT A.S. International Defense Consulting, which has also been called President Erdoğan’s “secret army.”
SADAT was directed by retired Brig. Gen. Adnan Tanrıverdi, who was appointed as an adviser to President Erdoğan. Tanrıverdi is known for his Islamist ideology and has counseled Erdoğan for years although in an unofficial capacity, columnist Abdullah Bozkurt wrote for Turkish Minute on Nov. 25.
In June, an imam-hatip, or religious high school, in İzmir province promised its graduates preference in enrollment at military and police academies.
Some find the Turkish government’s efforts to Islamicize the Turkish army alarming and warn that NATO risks having a member army filled with extremists.
In February Henri Barkey, director of the Middle East Program at the Washington-based Wilson Center, said that many generals purged by the Turkish government are pro-NATO and pro-American, saying this could create a shift in Turkey-NATO relations.