200 People Arrested in Turkey Over Gulen Ties

Turkey ordered the incarceration of 300 people including military personnel and soldiers, over suspected links with an insurgent group which planned a failed coup in 2016, according to local media and prosecutors.

Police in Turkey had directly targeted followers of Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen, as they gained impulse following the failed government overthrow, which left 265 Turkish citizens dead and 2,000 injured. Despite his denial of allegations, according to Turkish police, Mr. Gulen is responsible for the attempted plot against the Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan

The operation has been said to expand through 16 provinces. Since the original coup attempt, more than 77,000 people have been jailed, and 150,000 civil servants and military personnel have been suspended from duties. The chief prosecutor said 50 arrests were ordered within the military realm, three being lieutenants and forty-seven being Sargents, according to local news agency Hurriyet.

Yet many right winged groups and Western allies have considered the actions taken as radical and see the failed coup as being used solely to create feelings of hatred towards Gulen supporters. This brings to question President Erdogan’s intentions. Turkey has been known for being a secular state yet recently many people consider Erdogan as trying to shift Turkey towards a Muslim state. In fact, through the last sixteen years, President Tayyip Erdogan and the AK Party have attempted to implement more conservative and religiously aligned policies. It is worth considering whether decisions currently being made surrounding Gulen’s insurgency are merely meant to assist a decreasingly secular government narrative.

The Turkish Government has requested that Gulen, who currently resides in Pennsylvania, be extradited back to Turkey. In the past, the US has been adamant of this as it was claimed there was lack of sufficient evidence, yet recently the election of President Donald Trump creates a possibility on ‘working’ on the extradition. If this is to be so, many are concerned about the role freedom of religion has to play within this contested situation. 

Many believe the measures taken were radical, yet authorities protest that these actions were necessary to remove the Gulen ‘virus’. To many, the lack of rational claims or legitimate investigations within the government’s decision has rendered it illegitimate.

A call for investigations should now take place either through the auspices of the justice system or public media involvement. Nonetheless, the possibility of extradition is something that should be handled with great precaution as there needs to be a valid and legal justification considering protests from Gulen followers could easily cause disruptions.