A Brotherhood group ‎behind the Turkey coup

Those who rushed to analyze and take stances on the coup in Turkey, now have a second chance to reconsider the situation. It was neither the army as an integral institution that attempted a coup against legitimately-elected President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, nor the secular opposition. The attempted coup was carried out by Fethullah Gulen’s Islamic movement, or the “parallel structure,” as Erdogan calls and accuses the group of trying to seize control. This group is similar in its form, message and organizational structure to the Muslim Brotherhood, even though it is not related to it.

There are hundreds of investigators and security officers in Turkey who are now chasing the group, which is considered to be the largest organized Islamic movement in Turkey and Central Asia. The leader of this group, Sheikh Fethullah Gulen, is accused of plotting this first attempt to seize power through a coup. Erdogan's government has asked the US government to hand over Gulen.

After a series of surprising events over the past few days, I see that members of the Muslim Brotherhood, and those who sympathize with political Islam, have to wisely attempt to understand what has happened in Turkey. Whoever betrayed Erdogan and tried to overthrow the legitimate government, belongs to an Islamic politicized group that used some of its secret members who serve as officers and employees in the government or even in the prime minister's office, and relied on a secret organization that includes judges and teachers.

Security investigators probing the coup attempt are not looking for weapons in the offices and houses of the suspects. They are searching for religious books and publications linked to the group's leader, to prove their association to the Islamic group. The investigators ask questions revolving around the relationship of those accused with the group.

According to official news agency Anatolia, they have found religious books belonging to the group. The agency stated that one of the suspects, who is an assistant professor, had in his office at Sakarya University, Fethullah Gulen’s book “Emerald Hills of the Heart.” It is worth noting that the majority of those who were sanctioned are not soldiers but rather from the judiciary or university professors and teachers. Around 30,000 of them were detained, whereas only 9,000 military men were arrested. This huge figure shows that the army is not to blame, but instead, it is the movement itself. The soldiers who were involved are members of Gulen’s group, such as the Deputy Chief of Staff Levant Turkkan who admitted that he has been a member of the movement for years.

Sneaking into the military

Gulen’s group is a Turkish lobbying Islamist movement that is well organized. It is similar to the Muslim Brotherhood present in Arab states, which also depends on the establishment of a parallel state structure competing through social, educational and banking activities to reach out to the roots of communities and control them. Gulen’s supporters, just like the Muslim Brotherhood, become “pious” when prosecuted and work secretly towards change, however, they deny any conspiratorial plot publicly.

Whoever betrayed Erdogan and tried to overthrow the legitimate government, belongs to an Islamic politicized group

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

Turkish authorities have had doubts for a long time about the intentions of the group. Thus they decided 15 years ago to send Gulen away from Turkey because of a YouTube video showing that he admitted to his followers that he wanted to change Turkey's secular system. Former Turkish President Bulent Ecevit has sought to save Gulen from jail on charges of conspiracy and asked him to travel outside the country. Consequently, Gulen traveled to the United States, where he is currently residing, in the state of Pennsylvania.

Gulen, similar to some biased preachers who claim that angels speak to them, presented himself as a provider of miracles. He says that he memorized the Quran when he was just four years old and that his mother used to wake him up in the middle of the night to continue memorizing it. Gulen was loyal to his project as he spent nearly 40 years serving as an advocate in mosques across Anatolia. He established a giant organization of hundreds of religious schools in Turkey, and extended his educational and charitable activities to Central Asian republics after the fall of the Soviet Union. He has caused a crisis with the government of Kazakhstan, which accused him of organizing plots and conspiracies. Gulen built in Turkey a so-called “parallel structure” that consists of charitable organizations, giant financial institutions, radio and TV stations and newspapers. He gained wide influence to the extent that he has even supported the Justice and Development Party, and then Erdogan, in the penultimate elections. However, the two men disagreed at a later stage and went their separate ways three years ago.

Gulen has succeeded in installing changes into Turkish society, and in creating a large popular base, taking advantage of freedoms and economic openness since the 80s. It turned out that President Erdogan, who knows him well, was right when he expressed his concerns regarding Gulen’s secret group as it apparently succeeded in sneaking into the military, one of the most heavily guarded institutions in Turkey.

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on July 23, 2016.
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Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today. He tweets @aalrashed.
 

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