I had written earlier that the Syrian refugees could be a new opportunity for rapprochement between Turkey & Greece. There is however another much stronger opportunity for bringing our countries and nations together.
The botched coup attempt in my country on July 15th, demonstrates at once the resilience of our democracy to survive attacks on its very core, and the extent to which enemies of our country are prepared to go to diminish the "new Turkey" that does not bow herself to the whims and demands of global forces as the "old Turkey" once did at the expense of her own interests. Initial autopsy results of the fracas show that Turkish army officers following the inspiration, teachings and perhaps even instructions of a cultist Islamic cleric self-exiled in the USA were behind the attempt to assassinate our democracy.
Fethullah Gulen reportedly communicated in recent weeks with senior officers involved in the coup, according to data and analysis extracted from our intelligence reports during last weekend.
A brief tutorial on why Gulen, an elderly man living for the past 16 years on a farm in Pennsylvania with no seeming political ambitions left in life, could hold so much sway over his Turkish brethren in important military and government positions is necessary to understand why this rupture occurred. It all starts in the schools set up by Gulenists in the 1980s. They have long advocated a system of education which has now grown organically around the world, including 140 schools now operating in the US alone. Yet while on the surface Gulen sought to teach secularism to devout Muslims, in reality he was advocating that his followers mask their true Islamist tendencies so as to not alert the outside world to what was hidden in their hearts -- radicalism and exploitation of Islam for self interest -- until they could assume control of the levers of government.
Gulen took responsibility for educating the smart children of many poor families including those of some of our front line officers in the military, many of whom now hold senior positions of power, who couldn't afford such education for their children at the time. These officers led the coup attempt on July 15. Loyalty to a cult should never be confused with loyalty to the state. Indeed, this Molotov cocktail has been brewing for nearly 50 years in our country.
In November 2011, Gulenists attempted their first assault on Erdogan's government. The Istanbul prosecutor, a Gulen loyalist, summoned the then head of Turkish intelligence, Hakan Fidan, for questioning over his links to separatist Kurdistan Workers Party rebels. In early 2013, matters escalated when Erdogan introduced legislation that would ban specialized prep schools run by Gulenists from operating on Turkish soil in a discriminatory manner (students had to profess loyalty to Gulen's ideology to be admitted). At stake was nearly $2 billion in annual revenues from these schools that would have funded Gulen's hidden enterprise and cloaked political ambitions for a long time to come.
In May 2013, Gulen criticized the government's law and order response to protests in Taksim Square over urbanization plans for Gezi Park, and then escalated matters later that year by influencing the judiciary to pursue a bogus corruption scandal against Erdogan's key allies in government. Even I, owing to my close relations with the president as an ally in Parliament and as his ambassador to the European Union, was a target of the Gulenists when they secretly audio and videotaped, then edited and finally leaked fake evidence implicating us in what was a badly staged corruption probe. I can personally attest that Gulenist designs on power in Turkey have no boundary limits whatsoever.
On July 15, Fettullah Gulen orchestrated the coup attempt that left nearly 250 dead and 2,100 wounded. Some of the perpetrators of this bloody attempt escaped with a military helicopter to Greece and applied for political asylum. These terrorists dressed in Turkish military uniforms should not be welcomed by our NATO ally because they are “traitors” who threatened the very fabric of democracy that holds our country together.
The Greek Prime Minister was more receptive to the idea of extraditing these terrorist traitors to Turkey in the early days. But as time passes without any concrete action, Turkish people are getting worried that Greece is under the pressure of the same global powers who used the Gulenists in order to gather intelligence from 160 countries where they have schools educating the children of important figures.
The situation at hand is a litmus test for our bilateral relations. Almost 99% of Turkey is united against the Gulenist and we expect Greece as our neighbor and ally to extradite these individuals to be prosecuted by independent Turkish courts. Greece knows too well from her own history how terrible juntas are.
The one thing that is certain from July 15 events is that democracy is alive and well in Turkey. Our president is firmly in control of the government and the citizens who support his vision have made their voices heard by the thunder of their moving feet which literally took the coup plotters out of their tanks. Now we expect our Greek friends to show their solidarity.
The writer was the former European Union Minister and Chief Negotiator for Turkey and a former member of Turkey's Parliament from 2002 until 2015