Turkey ramps up anti-FETÖ campaign amid rumors
Turkey held one of the largest anti-FETÖ campaigns in the recent times on Feb. 18 as 766 people, including military, police department and Justice Ministry personnel, were ordered to be detained over their alleged links with the terrorist network accused of staging a failed coup in July 2016.
This latest wave of massive detentions indicates that the government continues to see FETÖ as an imminent threat to Turkey by giving the impression that the network still has a sizeable number of undercover members within the Turkish state apparatus.
The timing and the political context behind this crackdown make the escalation in the fight against FETÖ much more important and meaningful.
Firstly, it’s not surprising that the detentions included former and sitting judicial personnel, especially after some controversial verdicts on FETÖ cases annoyed the government and the public opinion. The case on a former four-star general, Metin İyidil, can be cited as a good example of this uneasiness. Although given a life sentence in 2018, İyidil was released from prison in January after a local appeal court decision acquitted him of all charges.
But his freedom did not last more than 24 hours as Ankara’s chief public prosecutor filed a complaint about the local court’s decision and ordered his arrest. All this process has drawn the strong reaction of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and other government officials who came to the conclusion that FETÖ might still be very powerful within the judiciary.
A second important development that makes this revisited anti-FETÖ campaign important is an ongoing discussion about the political leg of the Gülenist network. Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), has repeatedly accused Erdoğan of representing the political affiliation of FETÖ because of his governments’ cooperation with the network over the years.
Erdoğan, in return, sued Kılıçdaroğlu for compensation and fired back at the CHP by suggesting that it was the social democrats that decided to walk together with FETÖ against the AKP governments.
Both AKP spokesmen and like-minded pundits have highlighted that it was, in fact, Erdoğan who fought against FETÖ before and after the July 2016 coup attempt while others were cooperating with the network.
They have used this argument against former Chief of General Staff İlker Başbuğ and other four-star generals who have blamed the AKP government for empowering FETÖ’s influence and place within the justice through legal and constitutional amendments in 2009 and 2010.
Başbuğ, who was imprisoned for 26 months on terror charges, is now frequently criticized for not fighting FETÖ during his term as the chief of general staff between 2008 and 2010.
The third and most astounding point is the re-introduction of scenarios of a fresh coup d’état against the AKP government. A report penned by the Rand Corporation on the future of Turkish-American strategic partnership has often been quoted by pro-government pundits and columnists as it argues that “Mid-level officers are reported to be extremely frustrated with the military leadership and concerned about being removed in the continuing post-coup purges.” It also claims, “This discontent could even lead to another coup attempt at some point, and Erdogan appears to take the threat seriously.”
The government officials strongly deny this speculation and believe that it is targeting the Turkish Armed Forces which is heavily active in Syria, Iraq, Libya and the eastern Mediterranean. Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu also denied these rumors in an interview with the daily Hürriyet, stressing, “There is no person or an institution which can stage a coup in Turkey. But some circles are trying to provoke.”
The opposition parties were very cautious in not making this rumor a source of a new political tension with the government while insisting on the AKP’s role in the infiltration of FETÖ members into the bureaucratic circles. The government was also careful in not dramatizing the coup rumors as AKP spokesman Ömer Çelik said, “A discussion over a coup is futile agenda for Turkey. All our institutions loyal to democracy are awake [against a coup].”
But, still, it has turned into a trending topic among the political parties, journalists and think-tankers in the Turkish capital. Put aside all other implications, floating the idea of a potential coup will not help Turkish politics normalize.