Germany does not recognize the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) as a terrorist organization but a report by Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper discloses the sinister inner workings of the group in Germany.
The exclusive report focuses on FETÖ's young recruits and children they lured into the terrorist group. FETÖ, blamed for the July 15, 2016 coup attempt that killed 251 people in Turkey, is known for planting infiltrators in law enforcement, the judiciary, military and bureaucracy. It relies mostly on the recruits they brainwashed at an early age. Some among the putschists were career officers who joined FETÖ before they joined military school.
The Süddeutsche Zeitung report says children usually join the group for education but they can't leave of their own free will and face pressure and threats if they want to do so. The terrorist group garnered followers by posing as a charity group focused on education and with their religious leaning. The German newspaper says FETÖ lures recruits by offering chances to study, courses and dormitories. Students interviewed for the report, give a grim portrayal of the group which claims it is a movement of volunteers. Eighteen-year-old Serkan (not his real name) says people running informal dormitories of FETÖ imposed rules on them and "disliked" questions about the group's ideology. Serkan says he was admonished by a Gülenist who runs a FETÖ "house" for being late and all the students in the house were banned from texting other students or accepting friends into the houses before notifying the administrators. He says all students were forced to listen to "sermons" by FETÖ members every Sunday and were told that they "studied or played football" if someone questioned them about what they do on the weekend. Ayşe (not her real name), a former teacher who organized sermon events for young girls in FETÖ houses, says fellow members of the group pressed her into finding "new students." Female university students staying in houses run by the group would "be introduced to single men from Turkey," Ayşe says, adding that they had to quit university once they were "introduced."
The report also tells the story of Ayhan and Deniz, two young students who wanted to quit the group and had to sever ties with their families who were blindly loyal to FETÖ. Ayhan says his father gave half of his wage to the group every month and when he told him that he did not want to be a part of the group, he beat him. Deniz says he and his mother wanted to quit FETÖ but his father opposed them and divorced his wife once they decided to leave.
FETÖ owns schools and similar establishments in Germany, as it does in other countries around the world, but many hide their affiliation with the terrorist group. Media reports say that there are about two dozen private schools and some 150 "tutoring centers" run by the terrorist group. An unknown number of unofficial dormitories ("lighthouses" as they are known in Turkey) also exist in big cities of Germany.
The German government has been accused by Ankara in the past of turning a blind eye to FETÖ. Bruno Kahl, head of Germany's Federal Intelligence Service (BND), had even described it as a "civil organization" in a 2017 statement. The only negative outcome of the coup attempt for FETÖ apparently has been families taking away their children from the group's schools in Germany.
Elsewhere, the group has enjoyed a safe haven in the European country, especially high-profile members like Zekeriya Öz and Celal Kara, two renowned prosecutors linked to the group. Both are wanted in Turkey for membership of a terrorist group and Turkish media had claimed that they were protected by German intelligence in an unknown location. Öz and Kara were behind a string of sham trials in Turkey that helped FETÖ imprison its critics.
Adil Öksüz, another important figure of the terrorist group, is also believed to be in Germany or at least stayed there for some time. Öksüz is accused of masterminding the coup attempt in 2016 upon the instruction of FETÖ's U.S.-based leader Fetullah Gülen and remains at large since the coup attempt was quelled. Germany also serves as a shelter for staff of FETÖ-run schools in other countries, an Agence France-Presse report says. A number of teachers working at those schools who faced extradition to Turkey were granted asylum in Germany while a FETÖ-linked association in Berlin took control of a school chain in Ethiopia in 2017 before the schools were about to be handed over to the control of Turkish authorities.