In a recent op-ed in The New York Times, Mustafa Akyol examines the links between the Gülen Movement and Turkey’s failed coup attempt:
As one disillusioned Gulenist told me last year, “there is a darker side of the movement, and few of its members know it as it is.” For decades, the movement has been infiltrating Turkey’s state institutions, like the police, judiciary and military. Many believe that some Gulenists, taking orders from their imams, hide their identities and try to rise through these institutions in order to capture state power.
The bloody plot of July 15 is far more destructive than anything Turkey has seen in recent years. Notably, the plot came as Mr. Erdogan was supposed to be planning a major purge of suspected Gulenists from the military. The military’s chief of staff, who opposed the coup, identified the rebellious officers as Gulenists. One plotter even reportedly confessed to acting under orders from the Gulen movement.
Given the Gulen community’s hierarchical structure, all of this makes Mr. Gulen a prime suspect. Of course, the truth can come out only in a fair trial. Unfortunately, Turkey is not good at those — especially given Mr. Erdogan’s control over the judiciary and the ferocious polarization in the country today. But the United States government can try to negotiate with its Turkish counterparts to extradite Mr. Gulen, as Turkey’s government is now requesting, on the condition of a fair trial.
That would ensure justice, improve Turkish-American relations and help calm the dangerous zeal in Turkey. It may even be necessary to help many of the innocent people in the Gulen community to know what they are really involved in — and to begin new lives as free individuals.