It is sad, shameful and definitely very ill-timed from the arrival perspective of the 2023 holy month of Ramadan. It even leaves one doubting on which ‘faith planet’ the current Turkey leadership lives. The question is: “Has Turkey, under the Erdogan regime, come to the verge of what could easily go down in the country’s and world history as the Gulen Movement Genocide, just as we read in chronicles about the Jews under Hitler and the Armenians under the Ottoman rule? How far is Turkey from the argument raised by Dr. Bulent Kenes in his book titled: “A Genocide in the Making?” Sub-tiled, “Erdogan Regime’s crackdown on the Gulen Movement”?
News bumping onto my desk screen read incredibly horrible. It’s the day I even got the right ‘scent’ of “Turk Polis Teskilati…” electronic message from a language that I don’t know anything about. Something similar to what is written in the Bible about the Day of Pentecost when Jesus’ disciples made public sermons from which members of the audience heard what was being spoken in their own dialects. A quick browse reveals to me that I am on “the official Twitter account of the Turkish General Directorate of Security” which has “2.1M followers.” Widely read in deed.
The news says that as part of an investigation launched by the Izmir Chief of Public Prosecutor’s Office, Anti-Terror Branch police detained 47 people in an operation that was also conducted in Istanbul, Ankara, Samsun and Mugla provinces. Details behind the operation are that the police raided houses of 57 suspects and detained 47 of them, confiscating their savings, jewelry, mobile phones and computers. And what was their crime? Providing financial support to the families of people who were expelled from public service via decree laws and who are in prison due to alleged links to the Gulen Movement or who were just released.
Everything here reads just rotten to the core. It is disgusting to watch the video and compare it with the official version. In the first place, how does an anti-terror branch police of the public prosecutor’s office, comprising law enforcers, behave contrary to the call of duty or profession? What constitutes wrong doing in helping the needy? People, who require every possible support because they have no other source of income due to their breadwinners being held illegally in government prisons and the aftermath of the two recent earthquakes.
Where does a crime lie in becoming a member of a non-illegal association of people, allegations put aside? What is security-oriented in the operation that involves law-breaking activities? What a high level of pretense? The 2.1 million-plus recorded followers and the rest of the world are impressed upon to believe that “the directorate was trying to manage public perception as if the targeted people were really terrorists.” Who are these ‘terrorists’ on whom the police find meager “savings and jewelry” if they are not mostly women and girl children? Do mobile phones and computers constitute worthy terrorists’ goods in trade – the arms and ammunition?
In actual fact, isn’t the operation being understated when it is calculated to portray a scene of confiscation against all that took place which amounts to house breaking and theft or more specifically, robbery? A total of about $9,800 is reported to have been seized from the 47 people. One Egrefzade Ali posted a comment on the social media that the Erdogan regime has implemented almost all stages of the genocide against hundreds of thousands of members of the Gulen Movement who have been accused of fabricated allegations for seven years. More than 130,000 public servants including 4,156 judges and prosecutors were summarily removed from their jobs by Erdogan decrees which are above any judicial or parliamentary review. All this has a genocide bearing on members of the movement and their offspring.
Furthermore, throughout the entire recent operation, the police never found even a single fire arm or bullet? How informed was the basis of the exercise, therefore? This leaves room for other possible scenarios. Otherwise, how does one take a similar operation mounted by the same Police at many addresses in the early hours of one morning, ending in many people, including opposition progressive Kurdish-based HDP party leaders being detained into custody? HDP is the third largest party in Turkey that holds the key to bringing the Erdogan regime down in the upcoming elections. Those detained include a HDP Central Executive Board member Idil Ugurlu. This time round, unlike in the case of ransacking homes of Gulen-linked innocent people, no information was given about the reason.
The crackdown on members of the Gulen Movement has been an ongoing plot dating back to the pre- 2016 planned to fail coup. It finds root in the 2013 corruption investigations report that put Erdogan, members of his family and ruling clique on spot, leading some of his cabinet ministers to resign. Already, as early as November of 2015, Turkish police detained at least 35 people as part of a probe into alleged supporters of Gulen, then accused of a plot against Erdogan. The police raised several addresses in Izmir and arrested the men including high ranking officials and police officers. This was just after two days Erdogan swept back into power. Since then, the ruling AKP has speeded up crackdown on perceived loyalists of Gulen to the present day.
These reprisals have grown and been intensified after the 2016 coup alleged to have been masterminded by Gulen although the Muslim cleric has been living in U.S. exile since 1999. One generation later, Erdogan is still on his neck, vowing to give a hard time to those deemed attached to the Hizmet Movement wherever they live in Turkey or abroad.
According to the latest U.S. State Department 2022 country reports on human rights practices released on March 20, 2023, the Turkey story is one of “arbitrary killings, suspicious deaths of persons in custody, forced disappearances, torture, arbitrary arrests and continued detention of tens of thousands of persons, including opposition politicians and former members of parliament, lawyers and journalists. Members of the security forces committed abuses and impunity was a significant problem during the year.
The report also points to transnational reprisal against individuals located outside the country, including kidnappings and transfers to Turkey of alleged members of the Gulen Movement – “using tactics as extra-territorial killing, kidnapping and forced returns, threats, harassment, surveillance and coercion; misuse of international law enforcement tools and efforts to control mobility.” It puts the number of Turkish nationals living in multiple states that have fallen victim to this at a minimum of one hundred.
Could what one social account holder said in respect of the latest Izmir incident have any bearing on the Erdogan crackdown on Gulen followers thus sending a message of genocide across? That: “These (non-ending, anti-terror) operations, which do not comply with the law, human rights and reason, are reflections of the insanity in Turkey targeting a social group of millions of innocent people …?” That is the question.