FETÖ’s overseas structuring

By: Merve Şebnem Oruç*
“For the past three days, I have been in the holy city of Mecca to perform my pilgrimage. I had the chance to converse with Muslims from all over the world while at the hotel and Kaaba. A Pakistani proposed to me the following question in a very serious manner: “Why did [President Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan massacre 100,000 people?” Yesterday a brother from Senegal asked, “Why did Erdoğan kill 50,000 people during the July 15 incidents?” A man from Kyrgyzstan said, “You are a liar, you sound like you are working for the intelligence services,” to Kenan Alpay, when he tried to explain what really happened in Turkey. It is clear that the Gülenist Terror Organization (FETÖ) is working very hard abroad and we have not been able to express ourselves to them.FETÖ’s structuring abroad was a threat before the July 15 incidents. Having worked in 170 countries for long years and aiming to restructure Turkey’s foreign policies toward these countries and regions, the organization started to propagate against Turkey upon being exposed. We know for a fact that the organization has 40,000 members, which is thought to have reached 80,000 after many escaped Turkey. The organization is effective around the world starting from the U.S. and Western countries to the Caucasus, the Balkans, Africa, Central Asia, and the Middle East, as well as the Turkish and Muslim regions. They started expanding in these regions just as they did in Turkey. They disguised themselves under the term “hizmet” (meaning service), supposedly helping, feeding and educating the needy and opening schools. However, they never actually did what they promised. They opened schools in poor African countries not to educate the poor but instead target the children of rich businessmen and bureaucrats. Therefore, these schools were generally called CIA schools instead of being called Turkish schools in Asia. After establishing schools, in came the business and diplomatic connections. Many people knew that foundations like the Turkish Confederation of Businessmen and Industrialists (TUSKON) were not bridges between Turkey and other countries for trade purposes. If a businessman did not do trade with these countries through these organizations, his trade partnerships would be sabotaged and he would then have to fall down to his knees and fulfill the demands of these organizations. Consulates and embassies became FETÖ hearths in time. Just like they did in Turkey, they made sure they were influential and organized themselves within the media.

For example, FETÖ has 15 schools in Bosnia-Herzegovina – four of them preschools, five primary schools and five high schools and universities. These schools are an important source of income and an important source of human capital. The organization that has been in Bosnia-Herzegovina for more than 20 years has tourism companies, publishers and a newspaper called the New Zaman. Local sources say that this organization had the power to affect the country’s politics, public enterprises, civil society and the Muslim population. The situation is similar in Kosovo, Albania and Macedonia.

On the other hand, Mehmet Kemal Firik, a journalist who worked in Africa for long years, has been giving information about the organization’s structuring in Africa. FETÖ has infiltrated most countries in the region from Kenya to Nairobi and Malawi to Uganda. According to Firik, the school in Malawi, Bedr College, was founded with benevolence (himmet) funds from Kütahya province in Turkey.

The Internal Affairs and Culture ministers’ children are known to be students at this school. They have five schools in Kenya and four in Ghana. The “imam” of Ghana has strong connections and he can directly approach the ministers. They are known to be effective in Ethiopia, the center of the African Union. According to Firik, two of the diplomats and military attaches at the embassies here were found to be FETÖ members. The organization in Cameroon is said to have complained about the Aziz Mahmud Hüdai Foundation, alleging that they were al-Qaida supporters.

There is also an example from the Caucasus. Sources that know the region well say Azerbaijan is the door into Caucasus, Central Asia and Russia for the organization. The organization is known to be very strong here. Agil Alesger, an Azeri journalist says FETÖ warns its members to “die but not return” from the region. Alesger says that FETÖ abused Azerbaijan’s love for Turkey to enter this country, influenced important figures like Ebulfeyz and established its first primary school in 1992. The organization has 28 colleges, 28 private teaching institutions, one university, three student dormitories and 1,200 student houses. Alesger underlines that these schools continue to operate, despite the decision to close them down, by changing their names.

Likewise, Hüseyin Büyükfırat, one of the plaintiffs of the “plot against the Tahşiyeci group,” says the organization is second strongest in Azerbaijan. Büyükfırat, a businessman with many investments in Azerbaijan, said FETÖ requested money from him and after he rejected to give them any money they plotted against him. The real aim was the IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation which Büyükfırat was a representative for. Ali Fuat Yılmazer unsurprisingly claims that the IHH financially supports al-Qaida. The interesting thing is that journalist Sevil Nuriyeva claims that Hüseyin Büyükfırat was refused entry in to Azerbaijan this week. This incident clearly proves that FETÖ is very powerful in Azerbaijan, as only a few days after a trial a rich businessman is refused entry into the country.

When this is the case, don’t the state, people, politics, civil society, academy and media need to unite and fight against FETÖ just like they did in Turkey? Doesn’t this struggle have to be based on a strong strategy and mobilization?

*Merve Şebnem Oruç is a Turkish journalist and columnist.

(Published in Yeni Şhafak on Thursday, Sept. 15, 2016)