In sharp contrast to the narrative of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) regarding the masterminds of a failed coup in Turkey on July 15, 2016, Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu has said it was not the Gülen movement that organized the abortive putsch but hinted that the US was behind it.
Soylu’s remarks came during a TV program on Haber Global with journalist Candaş Tolga Işık on Tuesday night.
“Did Fetö carry out the July 15 [coup attempt]? Candaş, Fetö did not carry out July 15, but [the perpetrators] won’t leave us alone. If you stay strong, you’ll be OK,” said Soylu.
Fetö is a derogatory term coined by the Turkish government to refer to the Gülen movement as a terrorist organization, a claim strongly denied by the movement.
When Işık asked, “What does it mean to say Fetö did not carry it out?’ Soylu replied with a question, saying, “Where is Fetö?”
“In the US,” said the journalist, referring to US-based Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, whose views inspired the movement.
“That’s it,” said Soylu, refusing to elaborate on his remarks. Many interpreted Soylu’s remarks as meaning that he was accusing the US administration of the time, under the leadership of then-US President Barack Obama, of having masterminded the failed putsch.
Following a coup attempt on July 15, 2016, the Turkish government and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement, describing it as a terrorist organization.
Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the movement, strongly denied having any role in the failed coup and called for an international investigation into it, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.
Soylu’s remarks sparked shockwaves on social media as it was the first time a government official had pointed to actors other than the Gülen movement as the masterminds of the July 15 coup attempt.
Journalist Said Sefa called on Soylu to reveal the real masterminds of the coup attempt.
“Come on! He [Soylu] says Fetö did not carry out July 15. I think he means to say those who conducted it were tools. Why did you claim they were the main actors, then? Let’s assume a group was used as tools. Then why don’t you openly say who used them? Who are you afraid of?” tweeted Sefa.
Main opposition Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) Party Council member Eren Erdem said on Twitter, “If a CHP deputy had appeared on TV and said ‘Fetö did not carry out July 15’ like Süleyman Soylu did, what do you think would have happened?”
Erdem was referring to the serious legal consequences one would face if they said something different that the official government discourse about the background of the failed coup.
Following the coup attempt the Turkish government also removed more than 130,000 civil servants from their jobs due to alleged Gülen links.
According to a statement from Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu in November, a total of 292,000 people have been detained while 96,000 others have been jailed due to alleged links to the Gülen movement since the failed coup. The minister said there were 25,655 people in Turkey’s prisons who were jailed due to links to the Gülen movement.
In addition to the thousands who were jailed, scores of other Gülen movement followers had to flee Turkey to avoid the government crackdown.