Europe needs to focus on the right questions on FETÖ
“I have said that 90 percent of Turks agree on only two things: That there is a God and that FETÖ [the Fethullahist Terror Organization] is behind the coup,” Oğuz Kaan Salıcı told me, while speaking about the meetings of the foreign affairs commission in the United States, right after the coup.
Salıcı is an Istanbul parliamentarian from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP). He is a member of the parliament’s foreign affairs commission as well as the Turkey–U.S. friendship commission.
He told me how awkward he felt when they saw the need to go to the United States to explain what happened.
Actually, what happened was pretty absurd; like Turkish warplanes bombing the Turkish parliament. The fact that it was absurd does not mean it was not real. That’s why almost all foreign visitors who have started to come to Turkey are now taken to the bombed parliament building.
The Turks’ resentment is not about the world’s initial reaction. It was their resistance to accept the Turkish explanation that “a network led by an exiled cleric masterminded the coup.”
I checked my messages on the night of the coup. I was messaging with a friend abroad and I saw that a little bit after midnight I wrote him that this was a silly coup attempt by the Gülenists. Looking back I do not recall what exactly made me say that at the time.
But if you leave aside a tiny minority who thought this could have been orchestrated by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan himself (a claim which I discarded immediately that same night when I was asked about), it has taken a surprisingly short time even for the ardent opponents of Erdoğan and the ruling party to be convinced that Gülenists were behind the coup.
Those unfamiliar with Turkey, and who additionally have been reading nothing but how Turkey has been progressing fast towards authoritarian rule, might think that in the absence of a free press, 80 million Turks have been forced to believe in the identity of the culprits due to heavy government propaganda.
While I do not deny the presence of heavy government propaganda and accept the fact that the press is not free at all, the Turkish society has not come to the point of accepting everything in a totalitarian discipline.
In fact, whenever I have been challenged on that issue, I have been pointing to the opposition: “Why has the opposition, especially the CHP, which has been against and critical of almost everything the ruling party has been doing, not voiced any doubt about FETÖ being behind the coup?” That’s why I thought it was important for the sceptics to listen to the opposition.
Currently the burden of proof lies on Turkey to secure the extradition of Fethullah Gülen from United States. This is the requirement of the legal process.
For Europeans however, the question of “what makes you say it was FETÖ?” should be left behind.
And the West needs to understand that the purge is necessary. And they need to pass across this message to Turkey in order to have some kind of leverage.
What they need to question is how this purge is being conducted. How the guilty are being separated from the innocent. What the definition of guilty is in this case.
When I asked Salıcı how the CHP was convinced so quickly that Gülenists were behind the coup, he told me that there were so many people who had some personal experience; where they or an acquaintance were subjected to an injustice due to the Gülenist network.
Ironically, Salıcı told me he knew of several cases where people he knew were detained, or fired, when they had nothing to do with the Gülenists.
Sadly in a very short time, we will end up with millions who will know at least one case where an injustice has been done with the argument of “we are cleansing the Gülenists.”
Turkey can’t get out of the circle of creating new injustices while correcting other injustices.