By Haci Ahmet Dastan, Coordinator, TIKA Bucharest Program Coordination Office
It has been a year since Turkey suffered the coup attempt and it is time to take stock of the past year.
July 15 was not a typical military putsch. It was the worst act of terror in the history of the Turkish Republic. On that night, the putschists took the lives of 249 Turkish citizens and wounded more than 2000 people. They used lethal military hardware against innocent civilians, used fighter jets to bomb the Turkish Parliament and the Presidential Compound. They attempted to assassinate the President and the Prime Minister.
July 15 was a trial of strength and perseverance for the Turkish democracy and the State. It makes us proud to have passed this test. All the political parties, both in government and in opposition, civil society and the media stood up against the putschists. It was the people of Turkey from all backgrounds and political views who resisted and displayed a historic example of solidarity as they stood selflessly in front of the tanks and reclaimed their democratic rights.
We will always remember the strong show of solidarity expressed by Romanian leaders and the society with the democratically elected government and the Turkish nation after the coup attempt.
Fetullah Gülen’s disciples were behind this bloody attempt. His desire to take control of the Turkish State and to reinstitute the regime according to his perverted religious ethos was no secret in Turkey. For decades he directed his followers to infiltrate all critical state organs, such as the police, the judiciary and the armed forces.
These so-called “Gülenists” constitute a typical case of radicalization by a cult of personality. They believe that Gülen is the “Messiah” and that they are the “golden generation“. Their loyalty is to him only, making them violate any legal, religious or ethical codes in order to advance the interests of this group. They also excelled in concealing their affiliation with him, so that they can penetrate all circles without raising suspicion. In other words, FETÖ (Fetullah Gülen Terrorist Organization) is a new generation terrorist organization that is based on hypocrisy, concealment and secrecy.
As a matter of fact, the Turkish Government had already taken action against this mafia-like cultish organization and its financial resources before July 15. The decision to shut down prep-schools was a huge blow against this structure, since these schools were the main recruitment centers and a major financial source for FETÖ. It was followed by a series of administrative and judicial investigations into the criminal aspects of the organization, including their large-scale cheatings at the admission tests for public institutions, illegal wiretappings, money laundering operations, and many others. The police and the judiciary also had taken measures to discharge FETÖ members from their ranks. In short, FETÖ was about to lose its power in Turkey. Attempting to capture the state by their disciples disguised as army officers was their last chance to survive.
What was shocking for us, though, was the scale of their penetration to the Turkish Armed Forces. July 15 was a stark revelation of the existential threat that targeted the very foundations of the Turkish state. FETÖ had in fact “moved through the arteries of the system without anyone noticing their existence” as advised by their leader Gülen, and they had almost “reached all the power centers” like an infection caused by a virus that gradually seizes vital organs of a body.
Now, after a year of extensive administrative, criminal and judicial investigations we think we have a better grasp of what happened on July 15 and the perpetrator that was behind it. There are 78 ongoing court cases in 23 different provinces with regard to the perpetrators. Prosecutors have gathered crucial evidence pointing to the unmistakable imprint of FETO behind the coup attempt. For example, a number of FETÖ-affiliated civilians were present and they were giving orders to high-ranking officers in the Akıncılar Air Force Base, the center of operations of the coup plot. Moreover, there are testimonies from thousands of officers confessing their affiliation with FETÖ, video recordings and communications between the putschists. The Turkish authorities have also managed to decode encrypted communication systems such as “Bylock”, used only by FETÖ members.
During the last year, criminal activities of FETÖ have also been investigated in more than a thousand different court cases, bringing to surface the darker undertakings of the organization. Confronting such a dark, sinister and clandestine structure is not easy. The Turkish Government rightfully takes necessary and proportionate measures to suppress and eventually defeat this imminent threat. State of Emergency, which was declared immediately after the foiled terrorist coup attempt and extended until mid-July 2017 in conformity with our national legislation and international obligations (notably Council of Europe), was necessary to make the state organs act swiftly and effectively. It is not intended to intervene the daily lives of our citizens.
Utmost attention is paid for keeping the right balance between freedoms and security needs. Our international obligations are observed. As part of our commitments, relevant international organizations are timely informed about the measures taken under state of emergency. Domestic administrative and judicial remedies exist for reviewing measures for those who claim they have been wrongfully suspected. To date, over 300 institutions that were shut down have been reopened. More than 30 thousand public employees have been reinstated through administrative boards of review.
We also continue our cooperation in a spirit of constructive dialogue with relevant international mechanisms, including the Council of Europe, UN and the OSCE. Taking also into consideration the recommendations of the Council of Europe, an Inquiry Commission has been established to address the measures taken through Emergency decrees. With the establishment of the Inquiry Commission, the most important recommendation of the Council of Europe was fulfilled. This decision was announced by the Secretary General of the Council of Europe as a significant step forward, along with all other existing national remedies. The Inquiry Commission has also been recognized by the European Court of Human Rights as a domestic legal remedy.
FETÖ is not a benign civic education movement as some circles try hard to portray. It would be a huge mischaracterization to think of Gülen merely as a peaceful Islamic scholar and preacher. His disciples in the armed forces waged a campaign of terror on the night of July 15 and Gülen’s role in it deserves everyone’s attention.
We are faced with a global enterprise, with global aspirations of power and dominance. FETÖ is present in more than 150 countries around the world, through schools, foundations, media outlets and companies, including in Romania. What happened in Turkey one year ago is a reminder of what this organization may be capable of doing elsewhere. Therefore, we advise everyone to be vigilant.
The bloody coup attempt created a trauma in our society and we are still struggling to overcome the trauma of this existential threat to our country. We are determined to fight FETÖ with three things that they despise most: rule of law, morality, and democracy. We are committed to strengthen our democratic credentials, because we know that this is the only way to counter terrorism in all forms and manifestations. We are determined to fight such enemies of democracy through democracy. We are aspiring to do so, while we also fight the most dangerous terrorist organizations simultaneously, that is the PKK and DAESH. In these critical times, we need support and encouragement from our friends.