Turkey’s ongoing campaign to eliminate all Gülenist bureaucrats, military officers and judicial members is about to achieve its short-term goals. Their financial supporters and assets are seized, their propaganda media is shut down, and all affiliated people are now facing court trials or expecting to face it soon.

However, due to the huge worldwide network of allies and collaborators of the terrorist organization, this campaign is being undermined.  The west, for instance, assumes the campaign is threatening the individual liberties, setting aside the rule of law, or condemns certain operations targeting the terrorist organization.

There are, of course, errors and mishaps acknowledged by the highest officials including the Prime Minister, and there’s a serious danger of undercover members giving false reports and accusations about their rivals and people who carry on the prosecution process. The opposition in Turkey is watchful on the issue and their stance helps the government, and Turkey as a whole, to track and arrest genuine members of the infamous terrorist organization. However, most reactions from certain media institutions and officials from various countries indicate that the west is not worried about possible mistakes; instead they are supporting the terrorists either unknowingly or deliberately.

Gülenist movement is a “post-modern” terrorist organization. As they are not guerillas who bear AK-47s and plant improvised explosive devices, they are hard to detect and have an advantage in terms of propaganda, feigning and pretending. Therefore one must understand the structure of the organization  to have a clear image of what Turkey is dealing with.

Types of Members

1. Sympathizers: This group consists of people who are convinced that the organization is a religious movement involved in charity and spreading a peaceful, mild interpretation of Islam. Besides, members of this group are mostly people from rural areas and suburbs suffering from poverty, who joined the organization to find jobs, benefit from the worldly promises offered by the organization, especially children of poor families are baited by cheap dormitories and educational support. Worldly promises combined with the promise to gain God’s favor brought many conservative people to enter the ranks of the organization.

This group was also the first one to abandon the organization especially after investigations of December 17-25, which the government officials consider to be the beginning of the coup. Following the investigations of December 17-25, the split between the Gülenist movement and the government turned into an open conflict and the organization’s worldly promises were restricted, resulting in decrease in the number of  sympathizing members.

2. Low rank members: These members are functioning as local leaders for local sympathizer groups. Receiving orders from the upper ranks, they are not fully aware of what they are into and they are strong believers of Fethullah Gülen. Their knowledge about the structure is restricted to what they are told and they act as intermediaries between the sympathizers and upper ranks.

3. Devout Disciples: They see Fethullah Gülen as a messianic religious figure, capable of performing miracles and believe every deed for his cause will gain God’s favor. Middle-rank headsmen are recruited among these, but no information that would break their faith is shared with them. They are capable of any hypocrisy and deception, believing that wearing “masks” and even involving in sins will be forgiven by God as they are doing so for Gülen movement.

4. Strategic Cadre: This group represents the brain of the organization. However, faith comes second for these members, many rumors regarding Gülen’s miracles are spread by these members, forming the highest ranking administrators. They determine most of the strategic goals and means to reach them, and serve as leaders who persuade people that Gülen is some sort of Messiah, creating a cult around him.

5. Allies: Members of this group do not feel any loyalty or belief in Gülen, however their own agendas may parallel to those  of Gülen’s, therefore they are collaborating. They are also acting as Trojan horses to influence different groups; nationalists, leftists and liberals.

SPIN Network

Also cited by Kahraman Şakul, a Turkish journalist, Gülenist Terror Organization is a good example of SPIN Network organization. SPIN stands for “Segmented – Polycentric – Integrated”. The organization is segmented; each segment is targeting niche audience and has its own tactical goals. The polycentric model of administration makes it “glocally” efficient, allowing the organization to make policies targeting different groups and decreasing the chance of being wholly exposed. The “integrated” part is the most crucial: In a spin network, the integration is achieved due to a “common narrative”. For Gülen organization, this narrative is religion, Gülenist interpretation of Islam to be more precise. This allows the organization to achieve a global coherence, as they are not creating a new narrative, corrupting the existing one and spread it widely according to their own agenda instead.

The West’s Stance

As most of the arrested military officials confessed that they took orders from Gülen and Gülen’s close cadre, and businessmen confessed they were forced to pay “donations” to the organization, the west is still reluctant to designate the movement as a “terrorist organization”.

It is curious that the West is not designating an Islamist organization that involved in a coup attempt which claimed hundreds of lives, infamously bombing civilians and the Grand National Assembly of Turkey. The only difference between GTO and ISIS is that ISIS is more “conventional” kind of Islamist terrorist group, whereas GTO is a post-modern one, utilizing different means, therefore even more dangerous. The West, as it seems in Turkey, does not support innocents falsely accused of being a GTO member, but they are expressing solidarity with media institutions who continuously supported GTO actions, spreading their and PKK’s propaganda material. Banning, for instance, an ISIS account or newspaper, is not violation of freedom of speech, but it is a deed that actually defends the freedom of speech and all other kinds of liberties, as terrorist organizations target others’ freedom.

Moreover, the West’s stance “pushes” Turkey away to Russian influence. As Putin was quick to condemn the coup attempt and the West lingered long enough to cause suspicion, Turkey is now vulnerable to Russian fifth column operations. Turkey is now aligning itself more with Russia, and the West is losing one of its most important and powerful allies in the region. For example, on November 1, it is announced that Hulusi Akar is visiting Russia to meet his Russian counterpart Gerasimov.

In conclusion, Gülenist Terror Organization is against the values of the West, strategically a liability as well, sheltering it gains nothing and will surely lose Turkey forever. According to the press, one US official said Turkey’s case against Gülen has righteous grounds, and hopefully the rest of the West’s decision makers will condemn Gülenist organization, differentiating their criticism of Turkey’s government from supporting a terrorist organization just because they seem to oppose the ruling party. 

M. Bahadırhan Dinçaslan
Turkish Language Chief Editor of Crimean News Agency