Since the last four years, the month of July reminds the Turks of the strength of their democracy. On July 15, 2016, after the sun set on the country, the forces manipulated from the other coast of Atlantic attempted a bloody coup on the country’s democratically elected president, the national Parliament, the armed forces and the police.
The plot was orchestrated from American territory, but the actors were the terrorists in uniform who sneaked into the army, the air force and the navy since the 1980s. In three decades, those who climbed to the ranks of admiral, general and colonel, kept silent till they received orders to topple the regime in Turkey.
They were the members of the FETO (Fetullahist Terrorist Organization) led by Fetullah Gulen who has been living in Pennsylvania in the United States which has provided shelter to him since 1999. He is the ringleader of this clandestine and criminal organization. His disciples within the armed forces did not shy away from using lethal military force against innocent civilians, killing 251 and wounding thousands in less than 12 hours.
The FETO terrorists tried to abduct and assassinate the president of the republic together with his immediate family members. Another wing attacked the prime minister’s vehicle, while some flew low over the capital of the country and bombarded the National Assembly by F-16s which they they had hijacked. Other pairs of F-16s bombarded the buildings of the National Police and the Intelligence.
The putschists occupied the broadcasting houses of the State TV in Ankara and the CNN-TURK in Istanbul, and at gunpoint forced the media workers to read the statements they drafted.
The coup attempt failed, thanks to millions of Turks who rushed into the streets at midnight to resist the plotters.
The perpetrators were arrested and brought to justice. All the evidence collected throughout the investigations and the confessions of those who took part in the coup attempt demonstrated that the bloodiest terrorist attack in Turkey’s republican history was conducted by FETO under the instructions of Fetullah Gulen.
Those culprit generals who held hostage General Hulusi Akar, the then Chief of General Staff and the Minister of Defense in today’s government, urged him to talk to Fetullah Gulen on the phone, hoping to persuade him to join them in their malignant endeavour.
What is FETO?
The crimes committed on the night of July 15, 2016 were just the tip of the iceberg. The story started under the guise of a charitable education enterprise back in the 1970s. Gulen and his followers disguised themselves as a benign education movement when they started a campaign of establishing schools in Turkey and later in many countries around the world. As of July 2016, they were in full control of 800 schools in more than 160 countries.
It has been unearthed that this was the first step of an infiltration campaign where children and their parents were promised of a better education and good jobs. These kids were put through school with academic and financial help, plus heavy indoctrination. Over the years, these students were converted into unquestioning foot soldiers of Fetullah Gulen.
They were also told that to achieve the main goal of taking the control of the State they should remain hidden and could transgress all ethical, religious or personal beliefs. Confidentiality was of great importance in FETO’s structure. Members were given code names in order to ensure secrecy. In its cell-type structure, lower level members knew each other only with their codenames.
FETO-affiliated students were given answers of the entrance exam questions in advanceto ensure their easy infiltration into critical government posts. After joining the police force,the army, as well as the ministries, the loyalty of the followers were expected to be not to the State, but to the leader.
Briefly, the organization which disguised itself as an education movement, gradually turned into a secretive operational structure aiming to transform the society by taking control of the State from within.
Throughout the years, the organization began to claim a global messianic mission, depicting Fetullah Gulen as the ‘Imam of the Universe’. Financing was taken care of by holding companies and money raised from business people affiliated with FETO.
Media houses established by the organization started to form persons and groups according to their purpose. Those against or citical were lynched or purged. In its later stages, the organization started meddling in business transactions and government tenders, laundering millions in US dollars.
FETO members at higher ranks of the establishment abused their office to eliminate those who are not with them by illegal wiretapping, fabricating evidence, unlawful arrests including that of politicians, journalists, businessmen, artists, and even athletes.
The July 15 coup attempt took place at the time when the government discovered and listed most of those, especially among the ranks in the military, and took action to dismiss them. That night was the last and desperate final move of FETO to herd his followers to control the country and capture the State.
Turkey’s fight against FETO:
It was not an easy task for Turkey which has been a victim of terrorism since the 1970s. It has lost nearly 40,000 citizens in its fight against the PKK which was harboured in northern Iraq, and its affiliate YPG, armed mainly by the US in northern Syria, as well as to ASALA who martyred more than 50 Turkish diplomats and their family members abroad. It had to eliminate DHKP-C, the infamous extreme-Left terrorist organization. Defeating DAESH beyond its borders, Turkey had enough experience to fight against the FETO.
On the basis of the rule of law, the perpetrators of the July coup have been brought to justice.Several judicial processes and investigations were carried out in the country. The organizational structure of FETO within the government institutions has been unveiled. Its network across the economic domain, including the shell entities, primarily in education, media and banking sectors, have been thwarted. After having its backbone broken in the country, FETO shifted all its resources and weight to survive abroad.
Turkey’s fight against FETO abroad stood on certain pillars:
a) Warning friends of Turkey against this organization and raising awareness in foreign capitals. In 2016, both the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) and the Asian Parliamentary Assembly (APA) declared FETO as a terrorist organization. In 2017, UN-ECOSOC cancelled the Consultative Status of FETO affiliated NGOs.
b) Administrative measures were taken to limit the maneuvering space of FETO’s money transfers. Many countries have cooperated with Turkey in extradition of the FETO members and frozen their assets, while some countries started to monitor their activities closely. In 38 countries, governments closed the FETO-affiliated schools.
India’s reaction to the coup attempt against Turkish democracy:
The ‘democracy lovers in the West’ waited for days and weeks to assess the consequences of the coup attempt against the democratically elected government and Parliament of Turkey. Their media either kept silent or criticized the Turkish government, although their correspondents in Turkey reported the death of 251 civilians who were killed by the putschists.
However, Shri Narendra Modi, Honorable Prime Minister of India, the largest democracy on earth, was among the first who tried to reach H.E. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, President of Turkey, to extend the solidarity of the Indian nation with Turkey in the early hours of the next day. Turkish people will never forget that.
July 15, since the last four years, also reminds the adversaries of Turkey to think twice before intervening in her democracy.
The writer is Ambassador of Turkey to India. The views in this article are personal and do not represent that of the publication.