It was at a time that only one television channel yet (and it was only as subtitles) had announced, “This is a Parallel Organization operation” when an MP from the Justice and Development Party friend of mine called, asking: “May that be true? Is there any chance that they have done this too?”
At that moment, a chain of events of a 40-year period that I had witnessed flashed before my eyes like a movie.
It is the days of the March 12 (1971) military coup. Fethullah Gülen, together with a handful friends of him, stands trial at the Martial Law Court. The court is in Izmir, in the School of Languages of the Air Forces, located very close to my house, and I follow the initial session holding the press-card of a local newspaper.
Many years later, the aftermath of the September 12 military coup… I come across a photograph of Fethullah Gülen among those others in the list of “wanted” hanging on walls throughout the country.
In the later years, whenever I happen to share the same place with Gülen in social gatherings, what he reveals most is his ‘fear of military coup’ as political matters enter into our conversations.
I am the representative in Ankara of the daily newspaper, Zaman, which is to go under control of Fethullah Gülen’s followers in the years to come. “What are the intentions of soldiers?” is almost the unchanging question of people around him whenever they come to the capital for a brief time for some reason in the beginning of 1990s.
Fixation on ‘coup’
After some time, that question stops to be risen; instead, they are questioning about preparations for a military coup. They are nervous. It is not difficult at all to see that their anxiety reflects feelings of Gülen.
The owner of the newspaper says: “Our Beloved Teacher is here, and wishes to hold a conversation with you and your colleagues from other papers.” I invite one colleague from each newspaper to Zaman, our daily.
The date is 9 October 1995.
After having engaged in a small talk, Fethullah Gülen brings the conversation to the essential matters, and reveals what has a shocking effect on all of us: “There are some coup-like moves within the Army, and the plotters are in the process of preparation for a military coup. The center of the junta is the Air Forces Command. . . ”
There are only a couple of months to the general elections, and what seems to be likely as the election outcome scares the generals. What they fear is the possibility that the Welfare Party (Refah Partisi), which has already seized many municipal administrations, noticeably in Istanbul and Ankara in the municipal elections, may now come to power.
We occasionally hear about brainstorms at the General Staff Headquarters aiming at prevention of possible ‘prime ministry’ of the leader of the Welfare Party, Necmettin Erbakan.
But, a military coup?
The following day, we report Gülen’s claim in our papers, articulating his name as the source of our news.
Regardless of such a preparation for a military coup is true or false, nothing significant happens. The elections are held, and the Welfare Party comes out as the winner. Officers’ formulation of ANAYOL collapses, and Erbakan becomes the prime minister. (ANAYOL is the abbreviation of projected two-party coalition of two central right-wing parties in the parliament -t.n.)
I know the role of Fethullah Gülen in the election alliance formed (in 1991) among the Welfare Party, the MHP and the IDP that paved the way for the Welfare Party to enter the National Assembly. What I also know is that Gülen does not like Erbakan… It becomes gradually evident that Erbakan’s prime ministry deepens Gülen’s worry for ‘military coup’.
The military intervention does not wait long. Generals place the infamous, 16 article-long ‘Declaration of 28 February’ on the government’s desk during a session of the National Security Council. The event that is referred as ‘postmodern coup’ in political history of our country.
The circumstances of the period force Fethullah Gülen to go abroad. Six months before his departure for the USA, I leave Zaman in quite an eventful manner.
I told in details those events summarized above and much more on the basis of my own first-hand accounts in my book titled “Thus I Have Seen: Gülen Group’s Ordeal with Politics”.
The book that Faruk Mercan, a Gulenist journalist, has tried to discredit with his claim that it ‘contains a lot of false information’ despite the fact that I give a completely factual account of events that I have witnessed.
The USA’s attempt to send Gülen back
What happened in the USA? With whom and in return for what end Gülen formed new understandings in order to change the decision of the Americans when was made to face his ‘visa problem’ around 2007?
Answers to such questions should not be expected from someone who only follows further events from afar for quite some time.
All I know is what I observed during a dinner of Deborah Jones, then the US Consul General in Istanbul. The American diplomat, in a very clear manner, gave this message in that dinner: “He cannot stay in America any longer.”
I was there, and I related what was talked about during that dinner with details in my book.
Eventually, Fethullah Gülen was granted the ‘foreigner with legal residence permit’ status.
May someone, whose life turned upside down by coups, become ‘mastermind of a military coup’?
He was rather elitist in matters of education
It is quite known that Gülen and people around him place great significance on educational matters, and, as a consequence of this, there are many schools at home and abroad having ties with the Gülen movement.
We know, also from his own talks broadcasted on TV screens, that he encourages his young followers who have graduated from his schools or other schools to do degrees on law and political sciences, and guides bright ones to military schools.
How successful was his encouragement? Which of those youngsters have continued their contact with him in years to come after obtaining a place in those institutions?
What positions and ranks could those who entered in military schools have reached later, without suffering from rigid waves of purge initiated by the Supreme Military Council of the 28 February period?
Another question: Are there some individuals among the arrested commanders, who took part in the failed military coup, and who had been army officials in the Air Forces Command when Gülen shared his worry about ‘preparations for a military coup with us (in October 1995)?
If there are some indeed, such a situation may be considered, at least to some degree, as a proof of the link between Gülen and the failed coup attempt.
Another point I am curious to know: How likely is it that an army official, who is a member of a religious community, and who participates in the dreadful adventure of a ‘military coup’ as a result of an order coming from the leader of his religious community, would fire his gun onto his own people, massacre innocent people? Would a religious leader, who is supposed to be quite responsive to matters of heaven and hell, ever give instructions such as “Size state power even if this requires you to kill innocent people!”?
I hear you saying: “They did open fire, and this happened as a direct consequence of his order”.
But, what about those around Gülen, each of whom holds a high religious education: Did not those people oppose such an order?
A final point
Fethullah Gülen had isolated himself from outside world. He would see nobody except those close to him, refraining from journalists in particular.
He had a number of foreign journalists as his guests on the day he was declared as ‘mastermind of the coup’. He went to the extent that he showed his bedroom to his guests, and told them, swearing God, he had nothing to do with the failed coup: “The sanest possibility is that Tayyip Erdoğan himself is behind the coup attempt” he said.
I know you are now laughing as you will take it as just another ‘conspiracy theory’ and nothing else.
But I assure you, this ‘coup’ will turn into a coup against Gülen and his followers.
Regardless of whether they had any role in it or not…
[This is the translation by Bernar Kutluğ of a piece appeared in this site on 17 July 2016.]