Former soldiers victimized by Gülenists struggle to make a living, seek return to army
Mert Gökhan Koç – ANKARASoldiers victimized in previous years by followers of the U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen have been trying to make a living working in various different professions, while harboring hopes of returning to the Turkish Armed Forces.
Many soldiers were dismissed from the military in plots conspired by the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ), particularly from around 2012 to 2014, for replacement by Gülen-linked soldiers, who are now widely thought to have been behind the July 15, 2016, failed coup attempt.
Among those victimized at the time, some now work selling bagels on the streets, running teahouses and breeding birds.
Most of the officers were dismissed from the army on spurious accusations, including “engaging in behavior that humiliates the army,” “not living in accordance with the traditions, customs and the structure of Turkish society,” and “addiction to drugs, gambling and immorality.”
One of the dismissed soldiers, Air Force Sergeant Bahadır Çınar said they were “questioned in an unlawful way” before their dismissal.
“They took our testimonies after playing with our psychology. They asked us questions like, ‘What is your sexual orientation?’ ‘Did you have many girlfriends?’ ‘Do you watch porn?’ and ‘Do you consume alcohol?’” Çınar told daily Hürriyet on Sept. 4, adding that Gülen sympathizers in the army produced false evidence against them.
“They did this in order to establish obedience in the army years before the attempted takeover. It was planned long before the uprising [coup attempt]. After being dismissed from the army I started to run a teahouse in [the western province of] İzmir,” Çınar said.
“My legal struggle in the Constitutional Court is ongoing It’s been four or five years since we were dismissed and we are innocent. We haven’t been able to go back and that’s what hurts the most,” he added.
Another soldier victimized by Gülenist conspiracies was Air Force Noncommissioned Officer Alper Akdoğan, who was dismissed from the army in 2014.
“We never thought they would go so far. They made me sign documents with baseless accusations and pressure. A unit was brought to the Air Force and the Gülenists replaced us with them,” Akdoğan said.
“I won the legal battle by applying to the Constitutional Court over rights violations. Since I was dismissed I have been trying to make a living by selling bagels on the streets. I’m impatiently waiting for the day when I go back,” he added.
Kemal Soylu, a former world parachute champion and former Air Force Sergeant, meanwhile, said FETÖ tried to woo him to their cause but he refused.
“A file on you is prepared and then is cited as a reason for your dismissal,” Soylu told Hürriyet, adding that he was asked a number of questions including “whether he was gay.”
“They claimed that I slept with 500 women. They told me that I was a gigolo and was having sex with transsexuals. With these accusations they fired me from the army,” he said, adding that he has worked as a driver and as a bird breeder since being fired from the military.
Captain Yusuf Yonca described how no legal grounds for his dismissal could be found so his name was added to an ongoing espionage case.
“While the trial [into the espionage case] was ongoing, I was dismissed from the Armed Forces for alleged ill discipline in 2013. I now make a living via working at a furniture shop in [the southern province of] Hatay,” Yonca said.
“Our only crime was to stand firmly against FETÖ, which organized in state cadres in order to seize control of the state,” he added.
Air Force Noncommissioned Officer Mehmet Çakır was similarly dismissed from the army in 2013 over alleged “immorality and undisciplined behavior.”
“I was subjected to questions regarding my private life. They forcefully made me sign testimonies. After I was dismissed, I took the university entrance exam again and ended up entering the mechanical engineering department at ODTÜ [Ankara’s Middle East Technical University]. I also won a ‘rights violation’ case that I filed at the Constitutional Court,” Çakır said.
“I’m now in second grade at the university. I have started all over again. When I get back I want to continue my studies and work,” he added.
Air Force Noncommissioned Officer Fırat Çavdı, who was a member of the Combat Search and Rescue (MAK) team, said he was forced to retire in 2014 on charges including allegedly “engaging in behavior that humiliates the honor and dignity of the Armed Forces.”
“What really happened was that I was dismissed because I refused to become a FETÖ member. In order to provide a living for my family after I was dismissed, I took a private security certificate,” Çavdı said, adding that he now works at a hotel in the western resort town of Bodrum as a security guard.
“It costs $1 million for the state to raise MAK personnel. I need to serve my state. I have ironed my uniform that I carried with honor and dignity and hung it back up in my closet. I’m dreaming of the days when I’ll be able to wear it again,” he added.
Many of the soldiers dismissed in FETÖ conspiracies are continuing their legal struggles at the Constitutional Court. While the legal processes of most of them at the top court are ongoing, the files of those who have won their cases on the “confidentiality of private life and rights violations” have been sent to the Council of State.
The Council of State directs the files to administrative courts, which then sends the “rights violation” ruling to the force command from which the soldier was dismissed.