The Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) sees the fallout from its attempt to seize power two years ago with more members coming forward to confess their ties to the group instead of remaining anonymous. In the southern province of Kahramanmaraş, 60 out of 84 suspects detained in the past nine months for links to the group invoked the "remorse law," confessing their links to the group and explaining FETÖ's secret schemes. The law allows reduced sentences for defendants and helps investigators to uncover more secret members of FETÖ.
For instance, H.Z., identified only by his initials, an active-duty major in the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) when he was detained, confessed that he was forced to marry a woman, a fellow member of FETÖ picked by the terrorist group for him, to ensure his loyalty to the group.
The coup attempt on July 15, 2016, was the work of military officers loyal to FETÖ. Prosecutors say they acted upon orders of FETÖ's "imams" or handlers of military infiltrators on behalf of senior cadres of the group. Tens of thousands of people were detained or arrested in the wake of the coup attempt while trials of hundreds involved in the attempt are still underway.
Two years after the coup attempt was foiled thanks to strong public resistance, Turkey struggles to navigate its way through the murky network of Gülenists everywhere, from the judiciary to law enforcement and the military. Although many were caught red-handed on the coup night, many concealed members of the group are still free according to authorities. Operations are being carried out almost daily to hunt down FETÖ members.
With his terrorist group going through a period of decline, FETÖ's U.S.-based leader Fetullah Gülen has turned his fiery rhetoric on former followers. In a videotaped speech earlier this year, he said that former members who are confessing to their crimes are "apostates." Gülen says his followers should "prefer being tortured" instead of cooperating with authorities; "This way, they can be the recipient of God's blessing," otherwise they "will be apostates under Islam even if they pray 10 times a day." Although confessions from former members were commonplace before and after the 2016 coup attempt, the number of the group's infiltrators in the military who have turned themselves in has seen a sudden increase in the past months.
In Kahramanmaraş, police carried out seven operations against secret FETÖ members in the military and detained 84 suspects, both military officers and civilians who served as FETÖ's handlers for group's infiltrators in the military.
İ.Ö., an army captain who was dismissed earlier for suspected links to the group and detained in operations, confessed his connection to Ender A., a civilian who acted as "imam" for him and how he cautioned them to "be careful" not to disclose his links to FETÖ. "He told me to act like others, not to perform prayers openly and drink alcohol if we have to," İ.Ö. confessed. "When I asked him why, he told me that the Turkish Armed Forces is not religious," he added. Alcohol is forbidden in Islam, whose followers once were shunned by the TSK, which used to strictly follow a secular code and any sign of religious devotion usually led officers to be blacklisted. FETÖ, which calls itself the Hizmet (Service) Movement, attracted a following over several decades by pursuing a seemingly charitable cause and disseminating religious teachings based on the sermons of Fetullah Gülen, a retired preacher. Until 2013, when its infiltrators in the police and judiciary attempted to overthrow the government openly for the first time, it had managed to disguise itself as a religious group promoting an inter-faith dialogue. İ.Ö. said he was forced to marry someone arranged by FETÖ. "Ender A. told me I would be 'at a loss' if I did not marry someone from [the group]," he said.
In his confessions, Major H.Z. said he wanted to marry someone outside the terrorist group but his handler, "Oğuz," prevented it. "My current wife was also not a member, but I did not bow down to their pressure and married anyway. They wanted us to remain loyal to [FETÖ] by marrying other members," he said.