According to Turkey’s President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the recent attempted coup was not a legitimate sign of civic unrest, notes Dexter Filkins. In fact, it did not even originate in Turkey; the rebels “were being told what to do from Pennsylvania.” For Turks, the coded message was clear: Erdoğan meant that the mastermind of the coup was Fethullah Gülen (left), a seventy-eight-year-old cleric, who had been living in exile for two decades in the Poconos, between Allentown and Scranton, he writes for The New Yorker:
When I asked about his relationship with Erdoğan, he told me, through an interpreter, that Erdoğan had never willingly shared power with anyone. “Apparently, he always had this vision of being the single most powerful person,” he said. Erdoğan and his followers were all alike: “In the beginning of their political careers, they put up a façade of a more democratic party and leadership. And they appeared to be people of faith. And therefore we did not want to second-guess their motives. We believed their rhetoric.”….
When I asked whether his movement had an interest in politics, Gülen told me he had so many followers that some were bound to end up in important places, but that hardly amounted to a conspiracy. “No citizen or social group can be completely isolated from politics, because policy decisions and actions affect their lives,” he added. “Such a role for civil-society groups is normal and welcome in democratic societies—and it doesn’t make Hizmet a political movement.”
“How did it come to this terrible impasse?” former NED Reagan-Fascell fellow Andrew Finkel tweeted recently. Turkey should stop self-harming & free dissent, he said in support of the Article 19 campaign to defend freedom of expression and information.
Many Gülenists—perhaps most of them—practice their leader’s ecumenical ideas earnestly. But as [former activist Ahmet] Keleş was pulled into the movement he came to understand that it had a clandestine goal, Filkins adds.
“The only way to protect Islam was to infiltrate the state with our followers and seize all the institutions of government,” he explained. “The legal way to do it was by election, by parliament—but you couldn’t do it that way, because the military would step in. The only way to do it was the illegal way—to infiltrate the state and change the institutions from within.”