It is no secret that the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ), the terrorist group led by Fetullah Gülen based in the U.S., was behind last summer's failed coup in Turkey, which claimed 250 innocent lives. Nonetheless, certain groups in Europe and the United States have been making the case that the group could not have possibly engaged in a bloody attempt to overthrow Turkey's elected government. In their view, FETÖ is not a terrorist organization, but a group of volunteers who want to do good and educate young people. In a recent story in a major Western media outlet, FETÖ members were identified as "the most educated part of Turkish society". To be clear, the people who write such things do not necessarily believe that the group is a force for good, but say so because it is a useful tool to discredit Turkey. In other words, their goal is not to prove FETÖ's innocence but to confront the Turkish government.
As such, the intended audience of this column is not the small group of people who defend FETÖ even though they know how the sausage is made. Instead, it is an appeal to those who read such pieces and are kept in the dark about the group's true nature. The story should raise questions about the mindset and worldview of the group, which the Western media would like you to believe, is the most educated part of Turkish society.
A court hearing was recently held in the city of Bursa in a case related to FETÖ operations. The police officers who searched relatives of the accused found a number of locks in their bags and asked them why they would carry locks. They had apparently been praying to the locks to open them while the verdict was being announced so that their relatives would go free.
This is a group of people who believe that carrying around enchanted locks could influence court decisions. To be clear, this is not something that rational people can understand. This is the mindset of people with false beliefs blended with blind faith.
I came across similar absurdities in my research on ByLock, an encrypted messaging app used by FETÖ members to communicate among themselves. ByLock servers were hacked by the National Intelligence Organization (MİT), which decrypted around 18 million messages. The records clearly establish that FETÖ members are knee-deep in a world of false beliefs and superstition.
Here is what an individual who was handed stolen exam questions in order to be appointed as a judge in Turkey, wrote to fellow Gülenists on ByLock after being briefly detained back in 2015: "Brothers, when I was in detention, my wife was asleep at home. She heard that the door was opened, lifted her head and went to the source of the noise. She saw our Master [Gülen] inside the apartment. In other words, our Master went to check up on our home during my detention. It means that our Master was pleased with us so he came into our home. God is with us."
This is the mindset of an individual who was supposed to serve as a judge. Although he received years of legal training, he was prepared to believe that Gülen, who lives in a mansion in the United States, could make the trip to his apartment in Istanbul. It is absolute madness. We have no reason to believe that his fellow Gülenists who received the message could dare to doubt his delusion.
There are hundreds of social media accounts in Turkey with known ties to FETÖ that spread the same kind of nonsense online. Some Gülenists still believe that their leader can turn things around by orchestrating a second coup attempt and seizing power. For them, the Mahdi, or holy savior, will appear soon and help them gain control of Turkey and the rest of the world.
It was this kind of delusion that encouraged FETÖ members to commit crimes that all social groups in Turkey condemn today. Gülen's most radical supporters believed that they were protected by a higher power and their actions were justified. As such, they could commit all kinds of crimes with a clear conscience. Stealing exam questions to cheat their way into public service, like jailing innocent people in the 2000s and killing 250 people in the July 15 coup attempt was the result of the same thinking. Even though their actions were forbidden under Islamic and universal law, their intentions were true and would be forgiven by God upon Gülen's request. No matter what they did, they would go to heaven. It was therefore that a military commander who ordered his troops to shoot innocent civilians during the coup attempt in Çengelköy, Istanbul, tried to convince them by saying that the people they killed, like themselves, would go to heaven.
How is this belief system any different from Daesh? When a Daesh terrorist kills innocent people, he believes two things: If the victim is a non-Muslim, they deserve to be killed. If they are Muslims, they would go to heaven because they were killed for a holy cause.
Do you realize the gravity of the problem we face today? This is a group of people who regardless of their secular education, academic titles or respectable jobs have been brainwashed with false beliefs and superstition. Today, Turkish authorities are trying to win over and rehabilitate Gülen's victims. In order to avoid future problems, the United States and European governments need to start taking precautions now.