Weekly magazine Knack published an interview today with the EU Vice-President and Commissioner Frans Timmermans about the alleged involvement of the Gülen movement in the coup attempt of July 15th in Turkey.
Mr. Timmermans suggests that more empathy needs to be shown towards the Turkish government, which was targeted by a coup attempt on July 15. The commissioner also suggests that it is not entirely false that the Gülen movement is behind the coup.
Mr. Timmermans makes his statements not based on facts, but on supposition. “Based on American research there are growing indications that the Gülen movement certainly played a role in the failed coup this summer in Turkey,” said the commissioner.
However, the article does not explain what evidence and which American research. It is remarkable that this statement of Timmermans comes after Erdoğan’s threat to end the refugee deal with Europe.
Thus far, although demanding Gülen’s extradition from the United States, there is no indication that the Turkish government can provide any substantive evidence at all that Gülen was involved in the coup. In addition, since the coup, the government has dismissed and arrested thousands of police officers, judges, prosecutors and lawyers who are not compliant with the wishes of the ruling party. Currently, in Turkey there is no hope of a fair trial for anyone. In this environment, Erdoğan also intends to reintroduce the death penalty. Furthermore, there are reports of torture, sexual assaults, denial of medical care, and deaths in custody.
Immediately after the failed coup attempt Fethullah Gülen condemned the coup and denied any involvement, and he has asked for an international commission to investigate who was really behind the coup. He said that if 10% of the allegations could be proven, he would return on his own initiative to Turkey. To date his offer stands since no one has started such an inquiry.
About possible participation in the coup by individuals from the Hizmet Movement, Gülen has said that if any of his supporters were involved with the coup plotters, they would have betrayed his teachings and he will not forgive them for it. Finally, Gülen noted that an accusation is not a trial in itself, and it is wrong to blame a movement for a coup attempt before the investigatory process is completed.
About Dialogue Platform
Dialogue Platform is a non-profit organization located in Brussels. The association acts as a mouthpiece for the European dialogue institutions associated with the Hizmet/Gülen movement. The platform also serves as the main information channel of Hizmet and Fethullah Gülen, who is the honorary president of the association. Visit www.dialogueplatform.eu for more information.
This report has been written in response to recent events in Turkey — the attempted coup of July 15, 2016 and the extraordinary purges that are continuing in its aftermath. With the current government crackdown on the media in Turkey, it is difficult to extract an objective account of events on the night of the failed coup and establish responsibility for them. For that reason, here we examine the Turkish government’s official account of events and some of the difficulties with it. We also present a number of alternative conclusions about events from academics and experts from across the political spectrum. We document the alarming rise in wholesale human rights abuses for which the failed coup appears to be a pretext. We then show how the Turkish government or its supporters are also instigating similar abuses within the borders of Europe.
In the hope that the reader will be able to form an educated and objective opinion about the current state of affairs in Turkey and its effects beyond Turkey’s borders, we have provided plentiful references to supporting evidence in the form of newspaper articles and reports from official bodies or human rights organisations. At the time of going to press all the links given in the footnotes were available. However, given the Turkish government’s determined attack on freedom of expression, it is possible that those links which are based on servers in Turkey will not remain available for very long.
The report was initiated by the Alliance for Shared Values in the United States and the Dialogue Platform in Brussels. Scholars from the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Belgium, and Holland have contributed to the text.
8th November 2016, Brussels
Last week, the Turkish police raided the headquarters of Cumhuriyet newspaper, and editor-in-chief Murat Sabuncu along with eight other journalists have later formally arrested.
Furthermore, nine members of Turkish Parliament from Turkey’s second largest opposition party, People’s Democratic Party (HDP), including the party’s co-chairs Mr. Selahattin Demirtas and Ms. Figen Yuksekdag have been arrested over the weekend.
Dialogue Platform condemns the crackdown on Cumhuriyet newspaper and HDP which are just the latest example of the president Erdogan and Turkish government’s efforts to suppress freedoms and consolidate their authoritarian power.
As a Hizmet organisation, we believe that restricting the freedom of expression and freedom of elected representatives of the people through arrests and other means only helps imbedding authoritarian practices. As a candidate country, Turkey must comply with the principals of the EU, restore the rule of law, freedom of expression and press and reinvigorate its democratic spirit and institutions.
Dialogue Platform is a Brussels-based non-profit association which serves as a platform for Hizmet-affiliated dialogue institutions in Europe. Mr. Fethullah Gülen, the Turkish-Muslim scholar whose teachings and works inspired the Hizmet Movement, holds the honorary presidency of the platform. For more information, please visit www.dialogueplatform.eu.
English translation of the op-ed by Mr. Gulen originally published in Le Monde on August 10, 2016.
On the night of July 15, Turkey went through the most catastrophic tragedy in its recent history as a result of the attempted military coup. The events of that night could be called a serious terror coup.
Turkish people from all walks of life who thought the era of military coups was over showed solidarity against the coup and on the side of democracy. While the coup attempt was in progress, I condemned it in the strongest terms.
Twenty minutes after the military coup attempt surfaced, before the real actors were known, President Erdogan hastily blamed me. It is troubling that an accusation was issued without waiting for the event’s details and the perpetrators’ motives to emerge. As someone who has suffered through four coups in the last 50 years, it is especially insulting to be associated with a coup attempt. I categorically reject such accusations.
I have been living a reclusive life in self-exile in a small town in the United States for the last 17 years. The assertion that I convinced the eighth largest army in the world – from 6,000 miles away – to act against its own government is not only baseless, it is false, and has not resonated throughout the world.
If there are any officers among the coup plotters who consider themselves as a sympathizer of Hizmet movement, in my opinion those people committed treason against the unity of their country by taking part in an event where their own citizens lost their lives. They also violated the values that I have cherished throughout my life, and caused hundreds of thousands of innocent people to suffer under the government’s oppressive treatment.
If there are those who acted under the influence of an interventionist culture that persists among some of the military officers and have put these interventionist reflexes before Hizmet values, which I believe is unlikely, then an entire movement cannot be blamed for the wrongdoings of those individuals. I leave them to God’s judgment.
No one is above the rule of law, myself included. I would like for those who are responsible for this coup attempt, regardless of their identities, to receive the punishment they deserve if found guilty in a fair trial. The Turkish judiciary has been politicized and controlled by the government since 2014 and, consequently, the possibility of a fair trial is very small. For this reason, I have advocated several times for the establishment of an international commission to investigate the coup attempt and I have expressed my commitment to abide by the findings of such a commission.
Hizmet movement participants have not been involved in one single violent incident throughout its 50-year history. They haven’t even taken to the streets to confront Turkish security forces while they have been suffering under the government’s “witch hunt,” to use Mr. Erdoğan’s own words, for the last three years.
Despite being subjected to a smear campaign and suffering under state oppression for the last three years in the hands of a politically controlled law enforcement and the judiciary, Hizmet movement participants have complied with the law, opposed injustices through legitimate means and only defended their rights within the legal framework.
Turkey’s legal and law enforcement agencies have been mobilized for the last three years to investigate and reveal an alleged “parallel state” that they claim that I run.
The administration called the 2013 public corruption probe an organized attempt by Hizmet sympathizers within the bureaucracy to bring down the government. Despite detaining 4,000 people, purging tens of thousands of government employees and unlawfully seizing hundreds of NGOs and private businesses, authorities were unable to find a single piece of credible evidence to prove their claims.
Turkey’s prime minister called an opportunity to meet with me “heaven-sent” in May 2013; however, after the public corruption probe emerged in December 2013, he began using hate language such as “assassins” and “blood sucking vampires” when referring to Hizmet movement participants.
After the treasonous coup attempt of July 15, the attacks have become unbearable. Turkish government officials also began referring to me and people sympathetic to my views as a “virus” and “cancer cells that need to be wiped out.” Hundreds of thousands of people that have supported institutions and organizations affiliated with the Hizmet movement have been dehumanized in one way or another.
Their private properties have been confiscated, bank accounts taken over and their passports cancelled, restricting their freedom of travel. Hundreds of thousands of families are living through a humanitarian tragedy due to this ongoing witch hunt. News reports show that nearly 90,000 individuals have been purged from their jobs and 21,000 teachers’ teaching licenses have been revoked.
Is the Turkish government forcing these families to starve to death by preventing them from working and prohibiting them from leaving the country? What is the difference between this treatment and the pre-genocide practices throughout European history?
I’ve witnessed every single military coup in Turkey and, like many other Turkish citizens, have suffered during and after each one. I was imprisoned by the order of the junta administration after the March 12, 1971 coup. After the coup of September 12, 1980, a detention warrant was issued against me and I lived as a fugitive for six years.
Right after the February 28, 1997, post-modern military coup, a lawsuit asking for capital punishment was filed against me with the charge of “an unarmed terrorist organization consisting of one person.”
During all of these oppressive, military-dominated administrations, three cases accusing me of “leading a terror organization” were opened and, in each case, I was cleared of the charges. I was targeted by the authoritarian military administrations back then, and now, I face the very same accusations projected in an even more unlawful manner by a civilian autocratic regime.
I had friendly relations with leaders from various political parties, such as Mr. Turgut Ozal, Mr. Suleyman Demirel and Mr. Bulent Ecevit, and genuinely supported their policies that I found to be beneficial to the larger community. They treated me with respect, especially when recognizing Hizmet activities that contribute to social peace and education.
Even though I distanced myself from the idea of political Islam, I praised the democratic reforms undertaken by Mr. Erdogan and AKP leaders during their first term in power.
But throughout my life, I have stood against military coups and intervention in domestic politics. When I declared 20 years ago that “there is no turning back from democracy and secularism of the state,” I was accused and insulted by the same political Islamists who are close to the current administration. I still stand behind my words. More than 70 books based on my articles and sermons spanning40 years are publicly available. Not only is there not a single expression that legitimizes the idea of a coup in these works, but, on the contrary, they discuss universal human values that are the foundation of democracy.
Emancipating Turkey from the vicious cycle of authoritarianism is possible only through the adoption of a democratic culture and a merit-based administration. Neither a military coup nor a civilian autocracy is a solution.
Unfortunately, in a country where independent media outlets are shut down or taken under government custody, a significant portion of Turkish citizens were made to believe – through relentless pro-government propaganda – that I am the actor behind the July 15 coup. However, world opinion, which is shaped by objective information, clearly sees that what is going on is a power grab by the administration under the guise of a witch-hunt.
Of course, what matters is not majority opinion but the truths that will emerge through the process of a fair trial. Tens of thousands of people, including myself, who have been the target of such gross accusations, would like to clear our names through a fair judicial process. We do not want to live with this suspicion that was cast on us. Unfortunately, the government has exerted political control over the judiciary since 2014, thereby destroying the opportunity for Hizmet sympathizers to clear their names of these accusations.
I openly call on the Turkish government to allow for an international commission to investigate the coup attempt, and promise my full cooperation in this matter. If the commission finds one-tenth of the accusations against me to be justified, I am ready to return to Turkey and receive the harshest punishment.
Participants in the Hizmet movement have been overseen by hundreds of governments, intelligence agencies, researchers or independent civil society organizations for 25 years and have never been found to be involved in illegal activity. For this reason, many countries do not take seriously the accusations of the Turkish government.
The most important characteristic of the Hizmet movement is to not to seek political power, but instead to seek long-term solutions for the problems threatening the future of their societies. At a time when Muslim-majority societies are featured in the news for terror, bloodshed and underdevelopment, Hizmet participants have been focusing on raising educated generations who are open to dialogue and actively contributing to their societies.
Since I have always believed that the biggest problems facing these societies are ignorance, intolerance-driven conflicts and poverty, I have always encouraged those who would listen to build schools instead of mosques or Quran tutoring centers.
Hizmet participants are active in education, health care and humanitarian aid not only in Turkey, but also in more than 160 countries around the world. The most significant characteristic of these activities is that they serve people of all religions and ethnic backgrounds – not just Muslims.
Hizmet movement participants opened schools for girls in the most difficult areas of Pakistan and continued to provide education in the Central African Republic during the country’s civil war. While Boko Haram took young girls hostage in Nigeria, Hizmet participants opened schools that educated girls and women. In France and the French-speaking world, I have encouraged people who share my ideas and values to fight against groups that embrace radical Islamic ideologies and to support the authorities in this struggle. In these countries, I strived for Muslims to be recognized as free and contributing members of society, and have urged them to become part of the solution rather than be associated with the problems.
Despite receiving threats, I categorically condemned numerous times terrorist groups such as Al Qaida and ISIS who taint the bright face of Islam. However, the Turkish government is trying to convince governments around the world to act against schools that have been opened by individuals who did not take part in the July 15 coup attempt, and who have always categorically rejected violence. My appeal to governments around the world is that they ignore the Turkish government’s claims and reject its irrational demands.
Indeed, the Turkish government’s political decision to designate the Hizmet movement as a terrorist organization resulted in the closure of institutions such as schools, hospitals and relief organizations. Those who have been jailed are teachers, entrepreneurs, doctors, academics and journalists. The government did not produce any evidence to show that the hundreds of thousands targeted in the government’s witch hunt supported the coup or that they were associated with any violence.
It is impossible to justify actions such as burning down a cultural center in Paris, detaining or holding hostage family members of wanted individuals, denying detained journalists access to medical care, shutting down 35 hospitals and the humanitarian relief organization Kimse Yok Mu, or forcing 1,500 university deans to resign as part of a post-coup investigation.
It appears that, by presenting the recent purges as efforts that target only Hizmet participants, the Turkish government is in fact removing anyone from the bureaucracy who is not loyal to the ruling party, while also intimidating civil society organizations. It is dreadful to see human rights violations occurring in Turkey, including the torture detailed in recent reports by Amnesty International. This is truly a human tragedy.
The fact that the July 15 coup attempt – which was an anti-democratic intervention against an elected government – was foiled with Turkish citizens’ support is historically significant. However, the coup’s failure does not mean a victory for democracy. Neither the domination by a minority nor the domination of a majority that results in the oppression of a minority nor the rule of an elected autocrat is a true democracy.
One cannot speak of democracy in the absence of the rule of law, separation of powers and essential human rights and freedoms, especially the freedom of expression. True victory for democracy in Turkey is only possible by reviving these core values.
Fethullah Gülen is an intellectual, preacher and a social advocate.
Fethullah Gülen, the Muslim cleric that the Turkish government blames for the recent attempted coup, has long been reclusive, rarely granting interviews. But in the wake of the accusations against him, he’s sought to clear his name.
Gülen recently agreed to answer a handful of written questions from POLITICO. The exchange is here in full:
You insist your movement is peaceful, not political. But multiple sources tell me that Hizmet has a dark side — where individuals are carefully groomed to enter government and related professions with the intent of an ultimate takeover. Is this true? If not, is it possible that these sorts of activities are happening without your knowledge?
I have served as a preacher for nearly 30 years before coming to the U.S. and my friends continued to publish my talks after I settled here. There are over 70 books based on my articles and talks. It is natural that in Turkish government there are people who share some of my views just as there are those who don’t share them.
My teaching has always been to act within [the] law and in an ethical way. If anybody who follows my works acts illegally or unethically, or if they disobey the lawful orders of their superiors, that is a betrayal of my teachings and I fully support their being investigated and facing the consequences.
If there is no discrimination, government institutions reflect the colors and patterns of its society. We know that in Turkish government institutions there are people of various political and religious orientations, such as nationalists, neonationalists, Maoists, Kemalists, Alevis, leftists, sympathizers of Sufi orders and others. For decades, none of these groups could be transparent about their identities except the Kemalists because of political profiling and discrimination. And now, loyalty to Erdoğan is replacing loyalty to Ataturk as the criteria for acceptable identity.
It is the constitutional right of every Turkish citizen to serve in their government institutions if they are qualified to do so. To accuse anybody of having a nefarious goal without evidence is slander. If people are afraid to reveal their identity for fear of reprisals, it is the regime’s problem, not theirs.
As far as my discourse is concerned, I have never advocated for regime change in Turkey. To the contrary, 22 years ago, in 1994, I told publicly that there will be no return from democracy in Turkey or elsewhere in the world. This was both a prediction and a commitment to democracy. Publications who are allied with President Erdoğan now, criticized me severely then, nearly calling me an infidel. When the military was dominating the domestic politics during the late 1990s and early 2000s, I was charged in Turkish courts … but not a single piece of evidence could be brought to show that I supported any other regime but democracy.
What do you think the future holds for your movement in the wake of the attempted coup in Turkey and Turkish leaders’ demonization of your organization?
President Erdoğan appears determined to wipe all the institutions set up by Hizmetparticipants and prevent any future attempts to establish any new institutions. This is contrary to [the] Turkish constitution and all the international agreements Turkey is a party to. But unless world leaders take a stance with effective measures against this witch hunt, there is no internal dynamic in Turkey to stop the president.
Our friends have so far defended their rights through peaceful protests and in Turkish courts. Now even law offices are being raided and lawyers are being detained. People’s right to defend themselves in the court of law is taken away from them. [The] Erdoğan government is doing everything to push these people to violence. But so far they resisted and remained peaceful and I am confident that they will remain so. Some Hizmet participants have left the country to seek opportunities for investment or for professional work abroad.
This is a sad loss for Turkey but it is the only choice for some people. Private properties worth hundreds of millions of dollars have been confiscated. I hope and pray that this madness will not last for long.
If the U.S. government decides to extradite you to Turkey, will you agree to the decision?
The U.S. government has a long history of upholding the rule of law and respecting freedoms. Because of this, they have a respectable reputation around the world. I don’t consider it likely that they will abandon this tradition and undermine their reputation simply because President Erdoğan is so adamant about this issue. In the unlikely event that the extradition matter is decided on political grounds, I have already stated that they don’t need to force me out of the country, I will buy my own ticket and go on my own will without blinking an eye.
I am not worried about myself but I am worried about President Erdoğan’s insistence jeopardizing Turkey’s relationship with the U.S. and NATO. Both the U.S. and NATO played crucial roles in transforming Turkey from a single party regime to an imperfect democracy. If Turkey’s relationship with the U.S. and NATO are harmed, I don’t think it will benefit Turkish democracy in any way.
Is it true that you and President Erdoğan were once friends and allies? If so, what caused the tensions between you that have led to this situation today?
Many observers called our relationship an alliance but in truth, we were never very close. I met him two or three times, all before he ran for elections. When his party ran for elections I was already here, so I could not vote anyway, but Hizmetsympathizers supported his party through their votes and their voices in the media.
The reason for this support is not complicated. In going into elections in 2002 they [Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party] promised moving Turkey forward in its bid for EU membership by implementing democratic reforms; enhancing human rights and freedoms; better integrating Turkey with the world; ending public corruption, and government’s political profiling of people and their discriminatory measures. I and my friends supported them for these promises.
Leading into elections in 2011, they promised a democratic constitution that would be drafted by civilians without fear of military generals. But after winning that election they began to reverse every democratic reform they implemented before. The democratic constitution was first conditioned upon the inclusion of executive presidency and then completely forgotten.
In the past, I did support the idea of a presidential system if it is to be modeled after the U.S. or France or other countries where there are checks and balances against the president. But Mr Erdoğan’s proposal was akin to a sultan regime. I could not support such a system with a clear conscience.
Mr Erdoğan put pressure on me and Hizmet sympathizers to publicly support his idea of a presidential system. He increased the pressure by supporting government-funded alternatives to Hizmet institutions and then began threatening to close them down. If we complied with his demand and became loyalists, we would be enjoying the Turkish government’s favors now. But we declined and we have been facing their wrath for the last three years.
This might be called the price of independence. It is a heavy price indeed but I don’t have any regrets and I don’t believe any of my friends have any regrets. My only sorrow is that the country continues to suffer because nobody can stand against his uninhibited ambitions.
If you had the opportunity to speak to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and U.S. President Barack Obama now, what would you say to them?
I don’t think President Erdoğan would consider it worthwhile to speak with me. In the past, I made efforts to reach out to them via letters on the government’s profiling and discrimination, or on the issue of how to address the plight of Kurdish citizens. But none of those attempts were taken seriously. Now, I just pray that God gives him prudence so that he doesn’t jeopardize the future of this great nation.
I witnessed President Obama’s efforts to maintain the relationship with Turkey despite the challenges of dealing with an authoritarian leader. The U.S -Turkish relationship is very important for both countries but more vital for Turkey. I would be sad to see this relationship deteriorate. At the same time, President Erdoğan’s domestic actions are undermining core democratic values of U.S. and NATO.
I am worried that while trying to maintain the relationship, the ground on which this relationship is built upon is shifting. According to the media reports that I see, violent radical groups like ISIS are getting tacit support within Turkey, the handling of security concerns regarding the PKK [the Kurdistan Workers’ Party] is causing civilian casualties and suffering among Kurdish citizens and President Erdoğan’s ambitions to become a national hero is threatening to further destabilize the region. There is growing anti-Americanism and the media under President Erdoğan’s control is playing a leading role in this.
How to keep the relationship alive while preventing Turkey from turning into another Middle Eastern authoritarian regime is a very sensitive task and I hope that the president’s capable team of experts will lead him in the right direction in managing this challenge.
Director of Intercultural Dialogue Platform, Ramazan Guveli, has penned an opinion piece for De Morgen newspaper highlighting the polarisation of Turkish communities in Europe. Here is the link for the article (in Dutch), or alternatively you can also read it in English as below:
Consequences of failed Turkish coup are still deeply felt by the Turkish community in Belgium
as ZAMAN Belgium has decided to cease its publication due to increasing threats to its readers and journalists. The newspaper Zaman, used to be the largest newspaper in Turkey, is affiliated with Hizmet movement (or the Gülen movement), which is labeled by the regime of the Turkish President Erdogan as terrorists and as instigators of the failed coup.
Education centers and buildings affiliated to Hizmet (means Turkish “serving to others”) have been attacked in Belgium by the governing A.K. Party supporters after the coup attempt. As the new school year just started some Turkish parents have withdrew their children from the Hizmet affiliated schools in response to boycott calls against the movement.
People who has been inspired by Fethullah Gulen have established schools and educational centers to provide better opportunities for the children, dialogue and cultural centers to contribute social cohesion and peaceful co-existence, and other civic society organization such as youth and women associations to empower individuals and better integrate them to the Belgian society. Mr. Gulen always encourages his followers not only to integrate but also take responsibility and contribute to the societies wherever they live in.
Although Hizmet activities seen as “value added” work of Turkish civil society not only in Belgium but also across the globe how come that some part of Turkish community in Belgium turned their back or even be part of harassment and attacks? At this point we need to look at it in a wider angle and understand the role Turkish politics and “Erdogan effect”.
Right from the first minute of Turkish coup attempt in July, the President Erdogan accused the convenient “scapegoat” Gulen Movement being responsible for the coup attempt. Although Fethullah Gulen and all of the Hizmet affiliated institutions in the world condemned the military intervention and stood by the elected government, president Erdogan was not interested to wait for the result of judicial procedure to find out who was really behind the coup.
The main reason of the polarisation exported from Turkey is that Turks still live in “little Turkey” in their Belgian towns and very connected with their home country. According to statistics over 70% of Turkish migrants have satellite dishes which means they watch Turkish TV rather than local ones. Turkish mosques became kind of propaganda houses for Turkey’s Islamist party, and the narrations of Erdogan and his hatred campaign against the Hizmet Movement during last three years was well received by the ordinary Turkish public.
As the coup was invoiced to the movement it became like a jihad for the AKP supporters against the “traitors”, confiscating their properties painted as “war trophy”, espionage of Gulen sympathisers presented as “citizenship duty” by Turkish leaders thus blackmailing, harassments and boycott became widespread within the Turkish community of Belgium.
It is appreciated that Belgian authorities showed the solidarity to the victims which is what exactly needed during the atmosphere of fear but how come the Turkish diplomats and pro-AKP groups can so recklessly campaign hatred and discrimination in a democratic European country.
Some other hizmet affiliated organisations may follow footsteps of Zaman Belgium if they don’t feel safe and secure but we would not have all these unrest, if Turkey did not export its political persecutions to Belgium and Europe.
Fethullah Gulen, the Honorary President of Dialogue Platform has written an Op-Ed on the New York Times on his condemnation of the recent military coup attempt in Turkey.
To access the article online, please click here.
SAYLORSBURG, Pa. – During the attempted military coup in Turkey this month, I condemned it in the strongest terms. “Government should be won through a process of free and fair elections, not force,” I said. “I pray to God for Turkey, for Turkish citizens, and for all those currently in Turkey that this situation is resolved peacefully and quickly.”
Despite my unequivocal protest, similar to statements issued by all three of the major opposition parties, Turkey’s increasingly authoritarian president,Recep Tayyip Erdogan, immediately accused me of orchestrating the putsch. He demanded that the United States extradite me from my home in Pennsylvania, where I have lived in voluntary exile since 1999.
Not only does Mr. Erdogan’s suggestion run afoul of everything I believe in, it is also irresponsible and wrong.
My philosophy – inclusive and pluralist Islam, dedicated to service to human beings from every faith – is antithetical to armed rebellion. For more than 40 years, the participants in the movement that I am associated with – called Hizmet, the Turkish word for “service” – have advocated for, and demonstrated their commitment to, a form of government that derives its legitimacy from the will of the people and that respects the rights of all citizens regardless of their religious views, political affiliations or ethnic origins. Entrepreneurs and volunteers inspired by Hizmet’s values have invested in modern education and community service in more than 150 countries.
At a time when Western democracies are searching for moderate Muslim voices, I and my friends in the Hizmet movement have taken a clear stance against extremist violence, from the Sept. 11 attacks by Al Qaeda to brutal executions by the Islamic State to the kidnappings by Boko Haram.
In addition to condemning mindless violence, including during the coup attempt, we have emphasized our commitment to preventing terrorists’ recruitment from among Muslim youth and nurturing a peaceful, pluralist mind-set.
Throughout my life, I have publicly and privately denounced military interventions in domestic politics. In fact, I have been advocating for democracy for decades. Having suffered through four military coups in four decades in Turkey – and having been subjected by those military regimes to harassment and wrongful imprisonment – I would never want my fellow citizens to endure such an ordeal again. If somebody who appears to be a Hizmet sympathizer has been involved in an attempted coup, he betrays my ideals.
Nevertheless, Mr. Erdogan’s accusation is no surprise, not for what it says about me but rather for what it reveals about his systematic and dangerous drive toward one-man rule.
Like many Turkish citizens, the Hizmet movement’s participants supported Mr. Erdogan’s early efforts to democratize Turkey and fulfill the requirements for membership in the European Union. But we were not silent as he turned from democracy to despotism. Even before these new purges, Mr. Erdogan in recent years has arbitrarily closed newspapers; removed thousands of judges, prosecutors, police officers and civil servants from their positions; and taken especially harsh measures against Kurdish communities. He has declared his detractors enemies of the state.
Hizmet, in particular, has been the target of the president’s wrath. In 2013, Mr. Erdogan blamed Hizmet sympathizers within the Turkish bureaucracy for initiating a corruption investigation that implicated members of his cabinet and other close associates. As a result, scores of members of the judiciary and the police forces were purged or arrested for simply doing their jobs.
Since 2014, when Mr. Erdogan was elected president after 11 years as prime minister, he has sought to transform Turkey from a parliamentary democracy into an “executive presidency,” essentially without checks on his power. In that context, Mr. Erdogan’s recent statement that the failed coup was a “gift from God” is ominous. As he seeks to purge still more dissenters from government agencies – nearly 70,000 people have been fired so far – and to crack down further on Hizmet and other civil society organizations, he is removing many of the remaining impediments to absolute power.Amnesty International has revealed “credible” reports of torture, including rape, at detention centers. No wonder Mr. Erdogan’s government suspended the European Convention on Human Rights and declared a state of emergency.
Turkey’s president is blackmailing the United States by threatening to curb his country’s support for the international coalition against the Islamic State. His goal: to ensure my extradition, despite a lack of credible evidence and virtually no prospect for a fair trial. The temptation to give Mr. Erdogan whatever he wants is understandable. But the United States must resist it.
Violent extremism feeds on the frustrations of those forced to live under dictators who cannot be challenged by peaceful protests and democratic politics. In Turkey, the Erdogan government’s shift toward a dictatorship is polarizing the population along sectarian, political, religious and ethnic lines, fueling the fanatics.
For the sake of worldwide efforts to restore peace in turbulent times, as well as to safeguard the future of democracy in the Middle East, the United States must not accommodate an autocrat who is turning a failed putsch into a slow-motion coup of his own against constitutional government.
Fethullah Gulen is an Islamic scholar, preacher and social advocate.