Gülenist dropouts describe “cult life” to German daily

DAILY SABAH
ISTANBUL
Published 08.08.2017 16:08

Three former members of the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ), which is responsible for last year's botched coup attempt in Turkey, opened up to the German daily Frankurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ).

The ex-FETÖ members, who were closely involved in the group's "hizmet" movement, which claims that FETÖ's work solely focuses on education and charity, warned that the "cult-like organization" abused religious intentions.

FAZ reported that all three dropouts came from a good academic background and currently work as a lawyer, engineer and business manager.

One of the dropouts admitted that he had been active in the Gülenist movement for almost 10 years, assisting in various associations.

"I was told what I should be in charge of. Although they were formal associations, there was never a general meeting or an election for the board of directors," the dropout said, adding that these associations were promoted in Germany using the names of high-profile professionals like doctors or lawyers on their respective websites.

According to FAZ, members of the FETÖ associations received instructions from district representatives, who were all hierarchically bound to Hayrettin Özkül – the terror group's top man in Germany.

"The associations do not work according to their charters and German practices. I said I did not like that. The result was that I was given less important tasks and was no longer an important contact for the Gülenist people," he said, emphasizing that there was no transparency, nor any trace of a democratic structure within the associations.

The dropout also claimed that he was instructed several times to engage in German organizations on behalf of the Gülenist movement.

The FETÖ associations reportedly called on their members to join political parties like Germany's Social Democrats (SPD), Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the Greens or even apply for jury service.

A female dropout told FAZ that she was active in the Gülenist movement as a teenager, when she participated in FETÖ's youth meetings, and was shocked to discover that the group collected detailed information about her and her family, including personal photographs.

She also said that the FETÖ representatives who organized these meetings for teenagers directed them to specific degree programs, and were very interested to be a part of their future career.

The third dropout, who comes from southern Germany's Stuttgart, compared FETÖ to Scientology, saying that in his district, collecting funds played an important role.

He also explained that the terror group specifically targeted persons coming from a poor background for recruitment, thinking that the gratitude for their help would lead to years of dependency.

On July 15, a small military junta linked to FETÖ attempted to topple the democratically elected president and government in Turkey and impose martial law. The attempt was prevented by military troops loyal to the government, along with police units and millions of Turkish citizens in favor of democracy.

A total of 250 people, consisting of mostly civilians, were killed by pro-coup soldiers, while over 2,000 people were injured.

Germany has been singled out among European countries for embracing some 250 fugitive diplomats and soldiers accused of involvement in the coup.

Germany's uncooperative stance with regard to FETÖ has been a source of recent tension between Ankara and Berlin.

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