How a radical cult prepared for the coup

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For years, the Gülenist cult has tried to open a back door to conquer the whole apparatus of the Turkish state and finally staged a bloody coup last year

On Saturday night, we remembered the brothers, sisters, fathers and mothers, friends and colleagues we lost a year ago. Let me correct myself: We perpetually remember them. For instance, there is not a single day that I don't remind myself of my dear friend and esteemed colleague Professor İlhan Varank who is no longer with us because of a fanatical cult leader and his zealots thought that they were strong enough to take over the administration of the country in a military coup. Let me correct myself again: These religious bigots actually wanted to start a civilian war in the country as part of a larger plan to redesign the Middle East.

Do you remember Mt. Carmel near Waco, Texas? Were you to talk to them a week before the catastrophe that saw 80 people perish in that peaceful-looking retreat, you'd think that those people calling themselves the Branch Davidians were living a simple life, preparing for the imminent return of Jesus. A closer look would show you, however, that cult leader Vernon Howell (a.k.a. David Koresh) was taking "spiritual wives," several of whom were as young as 11, having children with them (the actual number was never known) and he was stock piling guns to fight the final Armageddon with "the man." "The man" in this case was the Attorney General Janet Reno who gave permission for the FBI to raid the compound. The people inside began firing weapons and starting fires. When the firefighters finally entered the area only nine people managed to escape; the rest had been fatally shot, including Koresh.

This was the first time in the modern age that the American people met with the real face of the cult phenomenon. From the outside, they looked like simple religious people living the life they deemed God asked them to live, and teaching it to those who were willing to learn. Fetullah Gülen used to be referred to (and still is by some U.S. media) as an "Islamic scholar in exile," and his compound in Saylorsburg, an unincorporated community in Monroe County, Pennsylvania, looks like just Mt. Carmel.

The strict secularism of the Kemalist corporatist veto regime provided ample fertile ground to any religious group (cult or not) to complain that they couldn't live life as they would like to. One of the rules was the prohibition of the hijab; if your mother covered her head, she could not attend your graduation ceremony in a military school. If you did not consume alcoholic beverages in a garden party thrown by your unit commander to celebrate the Republic Day and your wife was wearing a headscarf, you'd be forced to early retirement from the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) next week. If you graduated from a vocational school in electronics you could not enroll in the electronics-engineering department at university lest the graduates of the Islamic seminary schools be enrolled in secular branches of universities.

Many secular people fought against these and hundreds of other legal, educational and social injustices. Many youngsters enjoyed the corrections implemented by President Turgut Özal in the 1990s and others later. After 2003, the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) governments completed these reforms rapidly. But who would have known that a cult was using these reforms to infiltrate the judiciary, the police and the armed forces? The more open the state apparatus became to all people from all walks of life, the merrier we all became. The proponents of military interventions were being purged from the Republic's institutions; those who resisted it by organizing secret meetings in the military offices were being sued. The more so, the better we thought.

The author of these lines had a little question in his mind as well as many others: these institutions had been staffed in accordance with the strict rules and regulations of the corporatist system. The reason it is called corporatism is that the future members and administrators (the bureaucracy) of these institutions are incorporated by the existing administrators. If the democratization of the entire regime was not yet completed successfully, who were those entering into the system that easily? Years later we would learn that the cult had already penetrated to a point that would enable it to seep into the existing structures easily: the central testing board of the inter-universities higher educational council. They would pass the test answers to their faithful; and that was it.

When Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his ministers were busy democratizing the regime with lawful reforms department-by-department, ministry-by-ministry, the cult opened a back door to conquer the whole apparatus of the government. It had created its own parallel state organization. Thus the last military intervention in Turkey has come to pass. But there are many events in between that require a closer look.

To be continued

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