Turkey slammed the U.S. 2019 annual international report on religious freedoms in other countries that suggests the leader and members of the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) are a small, oppressed religious minority, saying that the report distorts facts and purposely overlooks terrorism. "Defining FETÖ members as Sunni Muslims who have been subjected to religious oppression clearly reveals the extent of how the report is biased, detached from reality and written under the influence of [the leader of FETÖ]," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said yesterday in a written statement over the chapter on Turkey in the report, released Tuesday and entitled "International Freedom Report for 2019."
Aksoy noted that the report referred to FETÖ and its members as a group that was "alleged" by the Turkish government to have organized the coup despite the judiciary establishing that FETÖ is a terrorist organization. He noted that placing such remarks in an advisory report to the U.S. Congress only means that they are deliberately turning a blind eye to terrorism.
Emphasizing that Washington's criticisms of Turkey are a sign of their inconsistent policies as they cannot even stand the sight of a Muslim representative in the U.S. House of Representative due to mounting anti-Muslim sentiments in the country, he stressed that Turkey, in fact, set an example for the whole world with its peaceful environment for different religious groups.
Pointing at the joint declaration signed last year by leaders of every non-Muslim community in Turkey, including Greek Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, Turkey Armenian Deputy Patriarch Archbishop Aram Ateşyan and Turkey's Chief Rabbi Ishak Haleva, Aksoy underscored that this declaration is the most clear example confirming extensive religious freedom in Turkey.
Presidential Spokesperson İbrahim Kalın also condemned the U.S. 2019 annual international report which listed FETÖ as an oppressed religious group.
Describing the report as being far from reality and objectivity, Kalın said that the report "tries to acquit FETÖ, which was legally proved as a terrorist organization."
Kalın also said that the report reveals that the U.S. is "blind and partial" on the fight against terrorism and added: "It is a vain attempt to try to justify a bloody terrorist organization, which killed 251 citizens and wounded thousands of innocent civilians during the July 15 coup attempt, with the words 'victim of religious repression.'"
FETÖ and its U.S.-based leader Fetullah Gülen orchestrated the defeated coup of July 15, 2016 in Turkey, which left 251 people killed and nearly 2,200 injured. FETÖ was also behind a long-running campaign to overthrow the state through its infiltration of Turkish institutions, particularly the military, police and the judiciary.
Ankara formally requested Gülen's extradition on July 19, 2016, and has been pressing the U.S. ever since, sending hundreds of folders of evidence implicating Gülen and FETÖ in the coup attempt. Yet, Washington has refused to extradite Gülen, disregarding boxes of evidence. Although at least 30 countries have shut down FETÖ institutions that fund the terrorist organization, the U.S. has not taken any steps on the matter.
On the other hands, the U.S. has been experiencing a significant rise in anti-Islam rhetoric and restrictions on Muslims since President Donald Trump took office. In his election campaign, Trump promised to ban Muslims from entering the country, and once elected, he ordered visa restrictions on citizens of certain largely Muslim countries.