Relations between NATO allies Turkey and Germany have become increasingly strained in recent years, but ever since the violent failed coup this past July 2016, this gap has widened.
Following hostile exchanges between the capitals and Germany’s threats to ban future events and visits, Turkey’s ruling AK Party announced on Tuesday that no more rallies would be held ahead of the April 16 vote.
For many Turkish citizens, including the +3 million living in Germany, these events have only cemented a sense of state persecution against them based on their faith, ethnicity and nationality. Some believe, not without reason, that Germany has shown little concern for Turkey’s security during and after the coup, and that their pointed criticisms are aimed at weakening and subjugating the country.
Germany, on its behalf, has complained about differences with Turkey on “basic questions of democracy and rule of law,” in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s words. For Turkey, these claims may seem hypocritical when just a few weeks ago Merkel complimented the leadership of Egyptian dictator General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi as a force for “stability” in the region and pledged an additional $500 million in aid.
Speaking on CNN Türk, presidential advisor Ibrahim Kalin was sharply critical of Germany’s unwillingness to assist in the investigation of the global activities of the Fethullah Gülen organization, the architect of the coup.
“Is it possible that German intelligence doesn’t have information on where these people are, what they are doing and who they are meeting?,” Kalin said in the interview. “Why are they protecting them? Because they are useful instruments for Germany to use against Turkey.”
As it turns out, German intelligence is well aware of the threat posed by the Gülen network, and deeply familiar with its far-reaching links across hundreds of businesses, nonprofits, schools, organizations, and public figures.
According to a 2014 report prepared by the security service of the Federal State of Baden-Württemberg, it was found that beneath the veneer of “peaceful inter-faith dialogue” the Gülenists pose serious risks of anti-constitutional activity.
The 60-page report highlights the names of Gülen operatives, front companies, media, civil society, financial scams, politically lobbying and influence peddling, and other activities which can similarly be seen in the Netherlands. In other words, yet another handbook of the Gülen modus operandi.
The German investigators were particularly incensed with the duplicity of Gülen’s public statements vs. his actions.
“Earlier statements made by Fethullah Gülen are not in line with the ‘liberal democratic state and rule of law,’” the report finds. “His preference for an Islamic dominated authoritarian system above a liberal, secular and democratic society based upon humanism indicates this.”
German intelligence notes that Gülen believes that “a person who has forsaken his ‘true’ religion is punishable with death.” He believes a woman is supposed to be the “possession” of her husband and her role is reduced to be just a “mother.” Gülen, who operates thousands of schools worldwide specialized in science and mathmatics, reportedly rejects the theory of evolution. Finally, many Germans may be surprised to learn what Gülen believes to be the solution of the “Kurdish problem” in Turkey.
The German intelligence report finds that the original Turkish versions of his writings are frequently different than the translations, which usually don’t mention the fact that he views a clear distinction between “believers” and “non-believers,” and repeatedly states his belief that Islam has a right to deploy violence under non-specific circumstances.
The investigation concludes that Gülen is determined to seize the reigns of political power, not just in Turkey but far beyond, in order to establish his vision of an Islamic-based society by any means necessary.
This fact, of course, poses an obvious risk not just to Baden-Württemberg but to the Federal Republic of Germany at large. This is why the organization has worked so hard to shape public opinion through media and lobbying, and this is why they are placing their members within the institutions of numerous countries.
With Merkel facing a tough election this September, many commentators believe she is attempting to walk a hard line to appease certain retrogressive Islamophobic factions while at the same time aggressively pursuing a “tough on terrorism” strategy on Syria and the refugee problem. Turkey, unfortunately, is suffering the consequences of these domestic German politics – even when it is clear it is in Germany’s interests to work with Ankara on containing the threat of the Gülen organization, and delivering accountability to the people of Turkey.