Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has promised that his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP)’s crackdown on the Gülen movement, inspired by Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen, will continue until its last member is “neutralized” in local and international operations targeting the group.
Erdoğan spoke at his party’s group meeting on Wednesday, a day before the fifth anniversary of a coup attempt on July 15, 2016, vowing to “neutralize” every single member of the faith-based movement, which his government labels as a terrorist organization and accuses of orchestrating the abortive putsch.
“It’s not easy to get rid of this insidious structure that has infiltrated every part of the state and nation’s life. We go after them here and abroad, bringing them back to Turkey as we catch them. The one [member] who [allegedly] coordinated the [group’s] biggest financial activities in Central Asia was caught, brought back and interrogated,” the president said.
Erdoğan was referring to Orhan İnandı, the founder and president of the Turkish-Kyrgyz Sapat school network, who went missing in Bishkek on the evening of May 31. The educator was feared to have been abducted by Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT) due to his alleged links to the Gülen movement.
The president had acknowledged in a statement on July 5 that İnandı was actually abducted by MİT, lauding the Turkish spies’ efforts in the rendition. Earlier this week İnandı was arrested by a local court on terrorism charges.
Human Rights Watch released a statement on July 7 saying that the abduction, forcible disappearance and extrajudicial transfer of educator İnandı to Turkey by Turkish and Kyrgyz authorities amount to egregious violations of international and domestic law.
Civil society groups and others have also expressed shock at İnandı’s forcible transfer to Turkey amid concerns that the Kyrgyz government failed to thoroughly investigate his disappearance.
“It’s obvious that the organization [movement] has members looking for an opportunity to fulfill their treacherous aims in our country and in many other parts of the world. We will go after them until the last member of FETO is neutralized,” Erdoğan said, using a derogatory term coined by the government to refer to the movement as a terrorist organization.
Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen movement since the corruption investigations of December 17-25, 2013, which implicated then-Prime Minister Erdoğan, his family members and his inner circle.
Dismissing the investigations as a Gülenist coup and conspiracy against his government, Erdoğan designated the movement as a terrorist organization and began to target its members. He intensified the crackdown on the movement following the abortive putsch on July 15, 2016 that he accused Gülen of masterminding.
According to official data, 622,646 people have been the subject of investigation and 301,932 have been detained, while 96,000 others have been jailed due to alleged links to the Gülen movement since the failed coup.
The government also removed more than 130,000 civil servants from their jobs on alleged Gülen links following the coup attempt.
In addition to the thousands who were jailed, scores of other Gülen movement followers had to flee Turkey to avoid the government crackdown.