Turkey was shaken by the July coup attempt, but its citizens are united and more determined than ever to stand up for democracy and against terrorism, writes Egemen Bağış.
Egemen Bağış is the former EU minister and chief negotiator of Turkey.
As dawn broke on 16 July 2016, Turkey found itself in an unprecedented situation. Over the following days, in fact ever since that fateful failed coup, several monumental developments have occurred. On the night of 15 July, despite the huge threat to national security from factions of the military forces, which tried in vain to topple the democratically elected government, ordinary people demonstrated extraordinary bravery. They defended the sovereignty of the country, defended their political and personal rights, they united against the rogue parallel state that was being established by the followers of a terrorist named Fethullah Gulen who is a self-exiled resident of Pennsylvania.
The people of Turkey stood up against tanks, armed soldiers, helicopters and fighter jets. Their actions were those more likely to be viewed at a movie theatre while eating popcorn, yet in cities around our nation, this was no movie, this was a shocking reality. The facts are that more than 240 citizens were killed and more than 2,000 others were injured. It was an atrocity. Now families are grieving loved ones, trying to come to terms with senseless and unnecessary loss. Turkey has been, and will remain, united with the people.
We have witnessed a milestone in its democratic history, from the nightly gatherings of people from all walks of life who came out to demonstrate their support, to the culmination of those at the Istanbul rally on 7 August, which over three million attended. It was no ordinary rally. It brought together the president, the prime minister, leaders of opposition parties, leaders of all faiths, the chief of general staff of the Turkish military, who condemned the coup and pledged the commitment of the Turkish armed forces to maintain democracy.
Political allies or foes, at this moment, those differences of opinion have been put to one side. Right now, the citizens of our country have come together. They all agree who the perpetrators are and are determined to ensure that Fethullah Gulen’s terrorist organisation is brought to justice. This organisation is built on layers and hierarchies. It includes a front of house association, a civil movement called “Hizmet” (literally translated as “service”) and appears moderate, tolerant and non-violent. This misrepresentation provides the backbone to the concealed reality. Behind the scenes of a network of educational institutions, companies including media, banking and printing, Gulen’s supporters have blended into society and have infiltrated all sectors of life. They have amassed wealth and influence through illegal means, through bribery and corruption, building up a huge network in institutions such as intelligence, the armed forces, the judiciary, police and treasury. These affiliations and allies were then used to try to advance this anti-secular indoctrination in Turkey, in a bid to construct a radicalised state.
Fethullah Gulen and his band of followers have demonstrated their worth. They are not to be trusted. They may appear pious, yet there is no purity in their actions.
The stark reality is that they are responsible for the deaths and injuries of innocent people. They selfishly tried to advance their own dreams with no consideration for democracy or the dignity of others.
It is time for the world to recognise that the wolf is living among us, and it is time that he is brought to justice for the terrorist activities he has led over the last 40 years. The extradition of Gulen from the US and his comrades from countries where they are hiding would cement long-awaited support from our allies. The delay of these anticipated extraditions adds to the physiological distance between Turkey and the West.
Rest assured that the citizens of Turkey have been made stronger by the unforgettable experience they had to endure. They are looking over the horizon to a new dawn. They will not be divided, they will continue to unite both domestically and globally against terrorism, which is a common threat to all humanity.