Erdoğan gets ready for anti-Gülen campaign

Erdoğan gets ready for anti-Gülen campaign

In its bimonthly meeting on Feb. 26, the National Security Board (MGK) decided to focus on the activities of Gülenists as a threat to Turkey’s security.

The press statement issued after the meeting did not mention Gülen or Gülenists, but it did use the keyword “structures,” which has been used by Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan to refer to the group since the graft probes opened on Dec. 17, 2013.

The investigations have so far cost Erdoğan the resignations of four Cabinet ministers, the release of controversial recordings about alleged conversations between him and his son Bilal, as well as with a number of business and media people. The recordings have drawn the picture of a corrupt Turkish administration as the country heads toward critical local elections on March 30.

Erdoğan thinks the graft probe is a “coup attempt” against his power by his once closest ally Fethullah Gülen, a moderate Islamist scholar living in the U.S. In a telephone conversation with U.S. President Barack Obama, (the first in more than six months), Erdoğan reportedly said a person living in the U.S. was “manipulating politics” and disturbing the Turkish government. Gülen, the organizer behind a wide global network of schools, lives in a farmhouse in Pennsylvania and has a Green Card. According to American sources, he cannot be prosecuted or expelled as long as he abided by U.S. laws.

But as more tape recordings are released and spread to the masses, not only through social networks but also through opposition party leaders denouncing the government, Erdoğan gets more and more upset and takes even harsher measures. Limitations on the Internet, imposing more political control over judges and giving extra powers to the National Intelligence Agency (MİT) with extra judicial protection are all part of those measures.

On Feb. 27, no longer than half a day after the MGK meeting, Erdoğan asked in an election rally about the policemen and judiciary members who have been conducting the corruption probes: “Which counties have they been spying for?”

There are whispers in the political corridors of Ankara that, along with a series of court cases, whether on espionage charges or simply on being a member of a subversive group, a widespread campaign is on the way to cleanse Gülen sympathizers from the judiciary and all layers of the bureaucracy, especially the security bureaucracy.

Gülenists, on the other hand, show no sign of retreat so far, and keep hitting Erdoğan hard.

Remember, Erdoğan is the politician who they have been working with door-to-door to ask for votes in the last few elections. Not only that; it was Gülenist policemen, prosecutors and judges who acted as the spearheads clearing the way for Erdoğan during probes like Ergenekon or Balyoz to deter the military from intervening in politics from 2006-2012.

Ironically enough, the Gülen group was brought to the attention of the MGK as a national threat once before, 10 years ago, in 2004. Back then, it was brought by the military to alert the Erdoğan government against the supposed threat. Call it karma or whatever, but history repeats itself in a very weird way in Turkey.