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Far right leader says Turkish ‘deep state’ steamrolled Gülenists on 2016 coup night

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The leader of a far-right party has said that on the night of a failed coup in 2016, the Turkish “deep state” steamrolled members of the Gülen movement, a faith-based group accused by Ankara of staging the coup attempt, lending more credence to theories that the July 15, 2016 abortive putsch was a false flag designed as a pretext to crack down on certain groups.

The deep state is a common term in Turkish political discourse used to denote an alleged group of anti-democratic coalitions within the Turkish political system, including high-level figures from the Turkish military, security agencies and judiciary as well as the mafia.

The July 15 military coup attempt, according to many, was a false flag aimed at entrenching the authoritarian rule of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan by rooting out dissidents and eliminating powerful actors such as the military in his desire for absolute power. Some investigative journalists found leads to this theory and claimed that the coup was meticulously crafted by the deep state to eliminate members of the Gülen movement, inspired by Turkish Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, from the state apparatus.

Following the coup attempt, the Turkish government declared a state of emergency and carried out a massive purge of state institutions under the pretext of an anti-coup fight. More than 130,000 civil servants, including 4,156 judges and prosecutors, as well as 24,706 members of the armed forces were summarily removed from their jobs for alleged membership in or relationships with “terrorist organizations” by emergency decree-laws subject to neither judicial nor parliamentary scrutiny.

Ümit Özdağ, leader of the Victory Party, made the remarks in response to a tweet. The original poster, Ethem Gürbaş, a former naval officer who was dismissed from his position by an emergency decree, pointed out the far right leader’s praise of his father Muzaffer Özdağ’s role in a military coup in 1960, contrasting it with his attitude against the failed July 15 coup attempt.

The country’s then-prime minister and several ministers were executed following the 1960 military coup.

Praising the success of his late father in the 1960 coup, Özdağ went on a rant against Gülenists, accusing them of treason and cowardice, saying the group “continues to exist as an espionage and terrorist gang.”

Referring to critics’ questions about the deep state in the early 2010s Özdağ said: “Remember how you asked in 2013, “We can’t find it no matter how deep we dig. Where is this deep state?’ On the night of July 15, it steamrolled you.”

“A 40-year-old spy organization [Gülen movement] will always go down in any fight it picks with a 4,000-year-old state, even if it has the backing of the United States,” Özdağ said, referring to some fringe theories also voiced by the former interior minister Süleyman Soylu that the US was behind the Gülen movement as well as the 2016 coup.

The failed coup killed 251 people and injured more than a thousand others. After announcing the next morning that the coup had been crushed, the Turkish government immediately began a sweeping purge of military officers, judges, police, teachers and other state employees.

On the night of the abortive putsch, President Erdoğan immediately blamed the Gülen movement for the attempt. He has targeted followers of the movement since the Dec. 17-25, 2013 corruption investigations involving then-prime minister Erdoğan, his family members and his inner circle.

Erdoğan, who dismissed the investigation as a Gülenist coup and a conspiracy against his government, labeled the movement a terrorist organization and began targeting its members. He jailed thousands, including many prosecutors, judges and police officers involved in the investigation as well as journalists who reported on it.

After the coup attempt, Erdoğan stepped up the crackdown on the movement. Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the failed coup or in any terrorist activities.

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