Representatives of the United States National Department of Justice and State have announced Friday that they will be sending a delegation to Turkey, to speak with President Tayyip Erdogan regarding the situation of Fethullah Gulen, the Turkish cleric accused of orchestrating the failed military coup which occurred earlier this month.
Fethullah Gulen has been living in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania since 1999. Prior to 2013, he had been a supporter of Erdogan, however, their alliance broke after Erdogan’s government was investigated for corruption in 2013. The investigation resulted in a number of arrests. The now-President was convinced Gulen was behind the investigation, leading to a much colder relationship between the two.
Fethullah Gulen is a promoter of altruistic and peaceful Islam. He has been actively trying to promote interfaith dialogue, the belief in science, and plural party democracy.
His vision has sparked a liberal movement in Turky called The Alliance for Shared Values. Currently, Gulen is on the most-wanted-terrorists list of the Turkish government, and is believed to be the leader of a group which Turkish authorities refer to as Gulenist Terror Organization.
In article written for New Europe, author Theodoras Benakis described the relationship between Gulen and Erdogan as that between Trotsky and Stalin. He argues that Erdogan is using Gulen’s figure in much the same way Stalin used that of Trotsky, as a means of giving the “enemy” a name and face.
Following the attempted Turkish coup, which took place on July 15 2016, Erdogan publicly stated that he believed Gulen’s followers had been behind it. The coup’s repercussions had resulted in the death of 200 people, many of which were civilians.
After the unraveling of this failed attempt at changing the government, Erdogan ordered massive purges in the military, civil service and academic departments. International public opinion has been pretty scandalized by these waves of purgings, and human rights organizations report serious violations.
The purge mostly targeted people who were believed to have some affiliation with Fethullah Gulen and/or the movement he inspired, and effectively instituting martial law in the country.
Turkish media has also been faced with an increased wave of lay-offs and censorship. Several media outlets were taken over by the government or shutdown, severely limiting the freedom of press and, by extension, free speech.
Erdogan is convinced the Gulenists, led by Fethullah Gulen himself, were behind the coup. Gulen, however, has vehemently denied any involvement.
U.S. authorities have denied Erdogan’s request to extradite Gulen, to be tried for his alleged involvement in the coup. The U.S. cited the fact that they were unable to find a definitive link between him and any presupposed terrorist activities as the reason for denying Erdogan’s request.
Their refusal to repatriate Gulen can have a serious negative impact on the already strained relationship between NATO and Turkey.
The U.S. has announced that it will dispatch a team of representatives to Turkey later this week, to investigate the claims. No specific date or deadline was given, and the names of the delegation members were made public.
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