Asking for evidence on FETÖ is insulting to Turks’ wisdom
When I say asking for evidence about the role of Gülenists in the failed coup amounts to insulting Turkey, I am not talking about the U.S. authorities asking for official proof to consider Ankara’s request for Fethullah Gülen’s extradition. That ıs a legal process which requires legal evidence.
I’m basically talking about opinion-makers, especially those in Europe. No one asks for evidence when Turkey’s opposition parties, academics, NGO representatives, journalists, and businesspeople complain about democratic backpedaling in Turkey and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s authoritarian practices. No one questions the validity of the arguments.
I’m not blaming anyone. Looking at Turkey objectively, it is only natural to see a slide toward authoritarian rule. But that does not mean every piece of information that seems to consolidate this picture should be taken for granted, which is usually the case. These days, every story that consolidates the narrative of Erdoğan’s lust for authoritarian power is devoured with great appetite. And it seems that with each step he takes and every statement he makes, Erdoğan provides more than enough to satisfy those appetites.
What I find intriguing is that the same crowd – which is met approvingly when criticizing Erdoğan – is met with disbelief when it says Gülenists were behind the coup. “Yeah, but where is the evidence,” they are asked.
I can understand the confusion. It is normal that there might be difficulty understanding the Gülenists and how their network functions. But the reaction you get from foreign interlocutors is not about a genuine wish to inquire and find out - it’s about sheer disbelief.
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), which has been critical of the government on almost every issue, has no doubt about the Gülenists’ role in the failed coup.
As a British Labour MP suggested to me, the public is so anti–Gülenist that the opposition party might want to avoid endorsing a position so contrary to public opinion. If that’s the case, what about those academics who also point to the Gülenists but who have also not shied away from criticizing Erdoğan? These include the lawyers who have struggled against Erdoğan’s anti-democratic practices, journalists, and Turkey’s top business group TÜSİAD.
Is there an assumption that we are so terrorized in this country by the anti–Gülenist campaign that we are now accusing Gülenists without really believing it?
It’s one thing to assume that some in Turkey are afraid to speak out and remain silent. But it’s something else entirely to assume that some of us are accusing the Gülenists openly without believing it, out of fear.
Turkey has not yet become a society where people are forced to say things without believing them. If that was the case, one could not have found a single soul before the coup fiercely criticizing the government and the president.
Questioning the draconian dimension the purge has taken is normal. But being suspicious about an overwhelming majority’s view of the culprit of the coup is rather condescending.
Many people who have no doubt about the masterminds behind the coup are also questioning and criticizing the purge, which has gotten out of control.
The fact that the government is mishandling the issue should not lead to an underestimation of the threat posed by the Gülenists. What is utterly disturbing is that those who have no problem trusting your wisdom regarding any anti-Erdoğan, anti-government rhetoric think it is right to question your credentials when you talk about the Gülenist threat.