In an exclusive interview with FRANCE 24, Fethullah Gulen admitted meeting a key figure in Turkey’s July 2016 attempted coup. But the Turkish cleric said that a mere visit from one of his followers isn’t proof he orchestrated the failed coup.
Fethullah Gulen repeated his declaration that he has never been involved in any coup-plotting. “I never thought that he could go so bad,” said Mr. Gulen, who said that the Turkish president was unleashing mass hysteria inside the country. “Some parts of Turkish society have lost their ability to think.”
It seems that there is no one left to say “enough” to Erdogan, most of the people who tried to stop him before are now in jail, and if the opposition can’t find a way to defend the civilian and constitutional rights then it’s completely useless. Some of them used to ignore the regime’s injustice just because they weren’t targeted by its actions, but they didn’t know that it will get to them one day as well.
“If they ask me what my final wish is,” Gulen added, “I would say the person who caused all this suffering and oppressed thousands of innocents, I want to spit in his face.” When asked if he was referring to Erdogan, he replied: “It can’t be anyone else. He is the oppressor.”
He has become a joke, albeit a dangerous one. He has become Muammar Qadhafi. Turkey is dangerously polarized. We know from Turkish political history that such polarization often leads to violence. I fear that Turkey is headed to a prolonged period of civil conflict if not civil war.
If members of Hizmet have done anything wrong, since they are in Nigeria, the Turkish government, through its embassy here can report them with hard evidence to the Nigerian security service. The fact that they have resorted to underhand tactics means they have nothing credible against these innocent fellows.
There is a rule-of-law in the United States and a process which the president simply does not have the power to short-circuit. If Gulen is turned over, however, I suspect relations will get worse because the extradition will convince Erdogan that blackmail and bluster work.
Even before the coup attempt in July, the judiciary was being essentially taken over by [then] PM Tayyip Erdogan. When the attempted coup occurred in July, within 24 hours there were arrest warrants for almost 3,000 judges. And it’s very clear, and in fact it’s been admitted by the deputy chair of the High Council [of Judges and Prosecutors, the body that selects and assigns judges], that that list of judges had existed for years.
Right now, all critical voices are silenced in Turkey and only the voice of those in power is heard. Consequently both Turkish people and outside observers are misled. The misperception about the coup continues because there is only one voice. The government interprets everything according to their calculations. They are using this event to express the antipathy they already had against Hizmet movement. The coup attempt is serving to justify their plans to persecute Hizmet movement.
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?
Hizmet is an Islamic movement with activities in more than 180 countries. To its followers, the gulenists, Gulen — a man with swallow feet and low voice who says he spends most of his time praying and studying — is a democrat in favor of the Turkish democratization.
“I have always been against coups, and I cursed them,” he said. “I would curse people who resort to coups against democracy, liberty, republic.” Gulen said returning to Turkey would only complicate matters. Asked if he had a message for Erdogan, Gulen said: “I only pray that he would not go to the presence of God with all these sins he committed.”