The release of jailed journalists will help the anti-Gülenist struggle
On the first anniversary of the July 15 coup attempt; I was invited by international media outlets to share my views. The questions focused on the anti-democratic dimension of the purges that has taken place after the failed coup. I was also asked about the journalists behind the bars.
In fact, a large majority of the coverage by the international media focused on the democratic backslide that followed in the days after the coup.
Not much was said about how heroically Turkish citizens took to the streets and stood against tanks. A prominent newspaper like the Financial Times used the title “Turkey marks anniversary of failed coup against Erdoğan.” Yet, while the visible target was President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his government, the coup targeted democracy and Turkish democrats as well.
Indeed not much was said about how Turks stood against the coup plotters to defend democracy. That’s probably because the international press is of the opinion that not much is left of the democracy which took Turks to the street to defend at the cost of their lives.
Even less was said about the wickedness of the Gülenists; who tried to topple the government to replace it with an Islamo-fascist regime.
While the foreign journalists believe that Turkey is increasingly sliding into an authoritarian regime under the rule of President Erdoğan, they fail to realize that had the coup been successful the Gülenists would have set to slowly kill the secular Turkish republic in a very sophisticated way. They would erode the secular democratic elements of the regime without irritating the Western world and by winning their silence through improving the rights of the non-Muslim minorities in Turkey and waging a strict war against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). The United States and Europe would turn a blind eye to secular democracy vanishing in Turkey as long as the so called moderate Islamists kept the borders secure from radical Islamists; just like they turn a blind eye to human rights violations of the Sisi regime in Egypt only because Sisi poses as if he is fighting against radicals.
Aside from talking about the vicious face of the Gülenists, the first anniversary served as an occasion for Fethullah Gülen to pose as an innocent victim; as he gave interviews to the press.
Turkey’s harmful strategy
It is obviously natural for the foreign journalists to focus on the injustices that took place after the coup and indeed provide wide coverage of journalists in jail. The sense of solidarity also necessitates a wide coverage of jailed journalists, especially those jailed journalists who have no connection to the Gülenists. But this solidarity comes at the expense of ignoring the reality about Fethullah Gülen’s threat.
The government is largely to be blamed for this shift of focus in the international media after the failed coup. It should have focused on the real culprits of the coup; those who planned and executed it, as well as the core team of Gülen’s network. It would have thwarted the immediate threat in the aftermath of the coup and it could then slowly and meticulously move on into investigating the outer layers of the network.
To declare a state of emergency and to purge thousands with decrees by the power of law has diluted the focus on key players of the Gülen movement. The disproportionate clamp down has created an impression in the world, which was already sceptic of Erdoğan’s democratic credentials as an effort to reinforce one man rule by oppressing all kind of dissent. The incarcerations of journalists who have no connection to Gülen at all have further strengthened this view. As a result, the world is focusing on Erdoğan, creating injustices while Gülen poses as an innocent victim suffering from Erdoğan’s wrath, while he secretly clamps his hands behind.
Turkey is failing to show Fethullah Gülen’s true face to the international public by its own mistakes. As long as journalists are in jail, it will be very difficult to unmask Gülen’s vicious network to the world.
Kadri Gürsel and other journalists will appear in court on July 24. A positive decision in their favor could prove a turning point in the struggle against Gülenists.