Following its multiple failed attempts to overthrow the Turkish government, particularly in 2013 and 2016, Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) is now battered by an internal strife. Articles and social media posts by its members suggest that the leadership of Fetullah Gülen was now under question.
After posing as a charity for a long time, the group's Hizmet (Service) Movement, which shared religious undertones, has over time revealed its real ambition, that is, a complete power grab in Turkey. In 2013, it tried to topple the government under the guise of an anti-graft probe by its infiltrators in police and judiciary. When it failed, the group employed its infiltrators in the military on June 15, 2016, for a bloody coup attempt that killed some 250 people.
Some members, who claim to have been lured into the group while it was still acting like a charity, openly questions Gülen's outreach in terms of the coup attempt. The terrorist group was already known for a string of crimes, ranging from blackmail to fraud in exams and more notoriously, orchestrating sham trials to imprison critics, through infiltrators in the judiciary.
Despite multiple investigations and trials after the 2013 attempt, it remained defiant of a crackdown, thanks to its extensive clout in Turkey where it controlled a sprawling network of businesses and schools. After the 2016 putsch bid, it lost strength as Turkey detained or arrested thousands of its members and shut down Gülenist mouthpieces that allowed pro-terror propaganda.
The apparent rift between FETÖ members reflects itself in disputes between low-ranking members and senior cadres as well as between those stayed in Turkey and went into hiding and those who fled abroad before and after the coup attempt.
The first signs of internal strife appeared in an article published on a Gülenist website on Aug. 31, 2017. Its writer Deniz Ayhan classified "Hizmet" followers as "confused," "those with clear minds" and "victims."
According to Ayhan, the confused severed ties with the group after 2016 coup bid and future of the group lies in "those with clear minds." The article fueled a debate within FETÖ, triggering comments of "treachery" by upper echelons toward low-ranking members, who make up the majority of those severing ties with the group after the latest putsch attempt.
İhsan Yılmaz, a fugitive FETÖ member, has commented on the social media that the article was actually penned by a group member in Belgium and described the writer as "a dishonest defamer." The article has accused Yılmaz of "silence" against operations targeting the terrorist group.
Bülent Keneş, another FETÖ fugitive, penned a similar article critical of the group, acknowledging that the group's fraud in nationwide exams for access to bureaucracy.
Keneş said those involved in the fraud were "real traitors" in the group. Adem Yavuz Arslan, a fugitive FETÖ member who currently resides in the U.S., told a Gülenist website in Canada that Fetullah Gülen "knew" about the 2016 coup. Gülen has long denied his ties to the putsch attempt, despite considerable evidence showing the connection between perpetrators on the ground and Gülen, who lives in Pennsylvania, U.S.
Ahmet Dönmez, a former employee at the now-defunct Zaman, a newspaper run by FETÖ, criticized silence over "Eşref," a member of the group he said linked to the coup attempt.
Dönmez said "some people became angry" when Eşref's role in the coup bid was questioned. "He lives in the U.S. now. Why does anybody question him? Are there people who want him to be silenced? There is also someone else who [accompanied putschists] in Ankara," he said.
He also spoke to the same website Arslan spoke to and said there was "a trauma" and trust [in FETÖ] "eroded, both in terms of internal trust and trust of people outside [FETÖ]."
İsmail Sezgin and Özcan Keleş, two FETÖ members based in London, echoed the same "trust issue" in their social media posts and say FETÖ was being "isolated." Keleş also hints at a power struggle between the group's members who fled to other countries and its members already settled in those countries. Halit Esendir, another member of the group, accuses senior members of not aiding fugitive members in social media posts.
A social media user going by the Twitter handle of @gunerestambul, says in a post that the Gülenists told some of its members in Afghanistan that they were "no longer needed."
Ahmet Kuru, another member of the group, launched a new feud as well within FETÖ when he penned an article calling Gülen to "account for" failures of the group and to step down from leadership.
Gökhan Bacık, an academic linked to the group, penned a similar article and said Kuru was called many names, "from idiot to ignorant" by other Gülenists for his critical article.
İsmail Tutar, a sympathizer of the group, drew the ire of other members when he called Gülen and "executive committee" of the group to resign via a post on Twitter. Tutar was accused of "sowing seeds of strife" by other Gülenists.
İsa Hafalır, another Twitter user, shared a similar post and openly accused Gülen as the "main culprit" in "what happened to the ‘cemaat,'" the Turkish word for "congregation," an informal name given to FETÖ.
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