As Turkey commemorates its fourth anniversary of the thwarted coup attempt of July 15, 2016, the Turkish Ambassador to Nigeria, H.E. Ahmet Melih Ulueren speaks to KINGSLEY OPURUM extensively about the activities of Fetullah Terrorist Organisation (FETÖ), and the failed coup that claimed about 250 lives in the country. Excerpts.
Can you shed more light on FETÖ and its activities?
To judge the deeds of Fetullah Gülen and FETÖ only with what transpired on July 15th would be a mistake. The crimes committed on the night of July 15th were just the tip of an iceberg.
It all started under the guise of a charitable education effort back in the 1970s. Fetullah Gülen and his followers disguised themselves as a benign education movement, when they started the campaign of establishing schools in Turkey and later around the world, including Nigeria.
We now understand that this was the first step of an infiltration campaign where kids and their parents were recruited with the seemingly innocent promise of a better education and a good job. These kids were put through school with academic and financial help and mainly a heavy hand in indoctrination. They turned into unquestioning foot soldiers of Fetullah Gülen who claims to be the “Chosen One”. The goal was to subvert the democratic foundations of the Turkish state and establish a new anti-democratic one under the absolute rule of Gülen.
The handlers of those FETÖ members staffed at critical governmental posts kept their indoctrination up-to-date and passed on the instructions of their leader. As civil servants or military personnel, FETÖ members’ loyalty was not to the nation or to the state they served. They did not care about upholding the constitution or the legal system of the country.
Thus, the organization that disguised itself as an education movement gradually turned into a secretive operational structure aiming to transform the society by taking control of the Turkish state from within.
But Fetullah Gülen has always been perceived as a great philanthropist whose aim is to impact humanity across the globe through education and other necessities. What’s your take on that?
Fetullah Gülen is the ringleader of a clandestine, criminal and terrorist organization called FETÖ that is unprecedented in terms of its global reach, including Nigeria, ambitions and methods.
Gülen is one of the serious threats to Turkey. To understand the security threat posed by his crime network, one needs to look into the enormity of his actions, primarily the 15th July coup attempt, and the resulting trauma that the Turkish nation has experienced.
As its strength grew, the organization began to claim a global messianic mission, depicting Fetullah Gülen as the “Imam of the Universe”.
The crime syndicate behind all this devised and ran an integrated system that took care of recruitment through schools and cram schools; financing was taken care of by holding companies and donations from business people. The organization also established media houses to shape the public opinion for and against any person, group or idea.
How did they amass such wealth to execute the lofty projects all over the world?
As the organization became more affluent, it started meddling in business transactions and government tender processes. Laundering enormous sums of money, arranging illegal transfers of cash and other financial crimes became business as usual.
The FETÖ members infiltrating critical state posts abused their power to eliminate who opposed the organization, by illegal wiretapping, fabricating evidence, unlawful arrests, thereby intimidating and blackmailing a large segment of the society including politicians, businessmen, journalists, even athletes and artists among many.
As the Turkish Government understood what was actually in place, the necessary legal actions were taken against FETÖ. Turkish judicial authorities rendered numerous conviction decisions against members of this crime syndicate due to its various criminal acts. Thousands of investigations and prosecutions concerning the illegal activities of FETÖ members are still pending. The ongoing and finalised investigations, prosecutions and trials yielded that Fetullah Gülen is the administrator and ringleader of FETÖ armed terrorist organisation and that he gave the order to stage the coup.
What was Fetullah Gülen’s aim of toppling an elected government in 2016?
July 15th was plotted at the time when the government had discovered and listed most of the so-called military personnel who were actually recruits of FETÖ and thus was getting ready to dismiss them. In other words, July 15th was a desperate final move of Fetullah Gülen and his followers to keep their control in place in Turkey and capture the state.
15 July armed coup attempt demonstrated FETÖ’s resolute to unwaveringly use terror, alongside other crimes, as a means to achieve its ultimate aim. With this act, FETÖ has clearly shown itself to the world as one of the most dangerous terrorist groups.
How many countries of the world does FETÖ operate?
FETÖ is present in around 160 countries, having strong presence also in Nigeria, with thousands of schools, businesses, NGOs and media houses. Their modus operandi is the same all around the world. As they aim to infiltrate and enlarge their global economic and political influence, they constitute a direct security threat for any country, including Nigeria, where they operate.
How is Turkish government fighting FETÖ both home and abroad?
In the past four years, the fight against FETÖ both inside and outside Turkey has constituted one of the main priorities of our country.
Despite facing extraordinary security challenges, we have been able to successfully conduct our fight at home in compliance with the principles of the rule of law and fundamental rights and freedoms. We have also expended efforts to avoid grievances and established new mechanisms to examine and settle alleged grievances.
As these developments took place, FETÖ has undergone a significant transformation. The organization, which lost its backbone in Turkey, is now trying to survive by making use of its structure abroad. Thus, fighting against the structures of FETÖ abroad has gained significance.
The fight against FETÖ structures abroad has been among the top priorities of our country.
The outline of our efforts can be summarized as follows: (a) the main objective of our efforts is to demonstrate and prove the fact that FETÖ also poses a threat to the security of other countries, including Nigeria, where it remains active.
We therefore continue to warn our friends, including in Nigeria, against this structure and thus we are satisfied with the rising awareness against this group as a consequence of our efforts. In this regard, we have been carried out approximately 16.000 initiatives at various levels to inform our foreign partners regarding the malicious of FETÖ affiliated entities and individuals.
As one of the concrete results of these official initiatives, several international organizations have adopted vital resolutions regarding FETÖ. Moreover, countries that have investigated and monitored this group have often found out that they are involved in an extensive list of crimes such as money laundering, intimidation, bribery and passport/visa fraud.
A resolution declaring FETÖ a terrorist organization was adopted at the 43rd session of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Council of Foreign Ministers held on 19 October 2016. The Asian Parliamentary Assembly also declared FETÖ a terrorist organization on 1 December 2016. Moreover, the Supreme Court of Pakistan announced a verdict on 28 December 2018, ordering FETÖ to be designated a terrorist group under relevant Pakistani law and FETÖ-affiliated schools to be transferred to ‘Turkish Maarif Foundation’. Finally, FETÖ was declared a terrorist organization at the 12th Conference of the Parliamentary Union of the OIC on 27 January 2017.
Secondly, we have taken administrative measures and initiated legal proceedings to limit the maneuvering space of the FETÖ terrorist organization abroad and to prevent its members from transferring money and escaping justice. Within the scope of investigations conducted in Turkey, we have requested the extradition and the freezing of the assets of FETÖ members from the countries where these persons are located.
The awareness raised regarding FETÖ in third countries has also stimulated closer monitoring and investigation of the activities related to these elements by the officials of some countries. Unlawful acts carried out by FETÖ-affiliated organizations have thus been revealed in various countries.
Finally, the ‘Turkish Maarif Foundation’ maintains its activities all around the world to prevent any shortfalls resulting from the steps taken against FETÖ, especially in the field of education.
What is Turkish Maarif Foundation?
Turkish Maarif Foundation is a non-proﬁt organization founded by a Law enacted by the Turkish Grand National Assembly in June 2016.
By the Law, TMF is the sole entity able to carry out educational activities abroad on behalf of the Republic of Turkey.
TMF provide formal and non-formal education by opening and taking over educational institutions on the basis of common accumulation and values of humanity.
As a result of the official contacts established with 100 countries in consultation with the relevant ministries and other state institutions within the framework of the priorities determined in line with the Strategic Plan, representative offices have been established in 52 countries and education activities are conducted in 60 countries.
FETÖ affiliated schools and education centres in 38 countries were closed down or taken over by the relevant country. In 20 of these, the affiliated schools and education centres have been transferred to the ‘Turkish Maarif Foundation’. Also, ‘Turkish Maarif Foundation’ has opened schools in 22 countries.