Once against Kurdish initiative, Gülenists turned into sympathizers of Kurds

Once against Kurdish initiative, Gülenists turned into sympathizers of Kurds

If you want to attract the attention of Western public opinion through media about Turkey, there are some key words one should use. 

If you use Kurds, Alevis, non-Muslim minorities, gender equality, extremists, radicals, salafists and are critical of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, you will certainly have an audience more willing to lend an ear to you.

 “It is deeply disappointing to see what has become of Turkey in the last few years. Not long ago, it was the envy of Muslim-majority countries: a viable candidate for the European Union on its path to becoming a functioning democracy that upholds universal human rights, gender equality, the rule of law and the rights of Kurdish and non-Muslim citizens,” wrote Fethullah Gülen in an opinion article published in the New York Times on Feb. 3, 2015.

After talking about how the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) reversed that course, he continued “We are not the only victims of the AKP’s crackdown. Peaceful environmental protesters, Kurds, Alevis, non-Muslim citizens and some Sunni Muslim groups not aligned with the ruling party have suffered, too.”

This is before the coup attempt. He used a similar rhetoric in another opinion article that was published after the coup attempt last year in the New York Times. 

“Mr. Erdoğan in recent years has arbitrarily closed newspapers; removed thousands of judges, prosecutors, police officers and civil servants from their positions; and taken especially harsh measures against Kurdish communities,” he had said.  

And this is what he wrote in an opinion article published in the Washington Post on May 15: “Since July 15, following a deplorable coup attempt, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has systematically persecuted innocent people — arresting, detaining, firing and otherwise ruining the lives of more than 300,000 Turkish citizens, be they Kurds, Alevis, secularists, leftists, journalists, academics or participants of Hizmet, the peaceful humanitarian movement with which I am associated,” Gülen wrote. He makes sure to mention Kurds again by the end of the article: “The ongoing pursuit of civil society, journalists, academics and Kurds in Turkey is threatening the long-term stability of the country… A Turkey under a dictatorial regime,
 providing haven to violent radicals and pushing its Kurdish citizens into desperation, would be a nightmare for Middle East security.”

Gülen’s sensitivity toward Kurds’ rights should raise eyebrows because the first open crisis between the AK Party and the Gülenists erupted over the Kurdish opening, specifically because the Gülen movement was against the democratic opening initiated by the AKP. 

Read it from a Deutsche Welle (DW) report published on 27 July, 2016: “A major event that hinted to the public a deterioration of Gülen-AKP relations occurred in 2012, when Gülenist police and prosecutors went after the powerful head of Turkish intelligence, Hakan Fidan, one of Erdoğan’s closest men. The investigation was related to Fidan’s exploratory talks with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party [PKK] on the orders of Erdoğan to end more than three decades of conflict.”

Interestingly, in 2011, the very detailed minutes of the secret talks between the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) and the PKK held in Oslo were leaked to the press. By then the Gülen network had become notorious for illegal wiretappings and leaking these recordings to the media, as they had done so in the smear campaigns they started against the military in 2010.

Today, many assume that the Oslo talks were leaked by Gülenists to sabotage the process.

“The Gülen movement, which competes with the PKK in the Kurdish southeast and is Turkish nationalist, was opposed to the peace process,” said the DW report. 

I chose to quote an international news outlet because some foreign readers show suspicion when a Turkish journalist tries to talk about the evil face of the Gülen network. They think our efforts to show the real face of Gülenists, who have nothing to do with the one they portray as “moderate Islamists preaching peace and pluralism,” come at the expense of ignoring the anti-democratic practices put in force by the government after the failed coup attempt.

Yet these two issues are not mutually exclusive. Targeting Gülenists does not mean endorsing the disproportionate purges that have taken place in Turkey. 

The Western public might not know all the past and present details about Gülen; yet I wonder to what degree the editorial boards and journalists of Western media have been displaying scrutiny and skepticism to the messages given by Gülen especially when he poses as a democrat talking about the rights of Kurds, while it has been a known fact that Gülenists sabotaged the peace process in Turkey when they were at the height of their power.