West failed to understand what really happened in Turkey

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

240 people died in the Turkish army's attempt to seize power in July. [Myigitdocumenter/Flickr]

Six months after the failed coup in Turkey, the EU must come to understand that there is no double standard when fighting terrorism, writes Veysi Kaynak.

Veysi Kaynak is Deputy Prime Minister of Turkey.

When the European Parliament voted in November to unilaterally freeze EU accession talks with Turkey, it revealed both naïveté and the extent to which many in the West fail to understand what really happen in the country six months ago and the threats we have faced since.

Over the past six months, our government has been embroiled in a struggle with forces that tried to destroy the democratic foundations of our country – and could try again. These forces, under the command of Fetullah Gülen, murdered almost 250 Turkish unarmed citizens who were bravely resisting the attempted coup d’état. Just as the US had its 9/11 and France had its 13th November, we have 15th July. It is now our duty to prevent all new threats to the Turkish people and to safeguard the integrity of the Republic’s institutions.

Consider the extent of the threat. For 40 years, the Gülen network has been working to infiltrate the organs of the Turkish Republic. Their methods are sophisticated, and their reach is broad: investigators have revealed how Gülenists carried codenames, communicated through encrypted systems, reported to a parallel hierarchy of “brothers” and systematically bugged and wiretapped state institutions. They stole the military academy entrance exam papers to help their candidates: Today, approximately 100,000 officers are estimated to have links to the movement. Of the 358 generals in the Turkish Armed Forces today, 160 have been connected to this organisation.

Like many of its European partners, the Turkish Republic is founded on a constitutional model familiar to many: Republican government, equality before the law, and separation of powers. But these principles do not provide answers to the questions that stem from this widespread infiltration. How should Turkish society respond when the integrity of the judiciary is compromised by widespread penetration by a terrorist movement? When police officers report to the Gülenist hierarchy, rather than their line of command? Or when sections of the military are controlled by politically-motivated activists that do not shy away from flying bombing raids on the Turkish Parliament? The state of emergency is a painful but essential step to consolidating the rule of law in the face of terrorism.

In trying to remove a major security threat to our country and to the broader region, we have sought support from our partners the world over. We had expected international cooperation to bring the perpetrators to justice. Following the attacks in Paris, world leaders, including from Turkey, came together in a show of solidarity. Following the attacks in Turkey, there was first silence. Then, even before we had time to bury our dead, Europe released an avalanche of lecturing, reprimands, and threats. Finally, some European leaders accused us of being Nazis. The contrast could not have been greater.

Now, while we are sheltering over 3 million Syrian refugees, Europe is harbouring thousands of Gülen loyalists, without raising a single question about the ulterior motives of this organisation. There is a difference between not seeing and not wanting to see. On the security front, Turkish troops are fighting daily to seal and clear the border area in Syria of ISIS terrorists. We are at the point of liberating the strategic town of al-Bab. But while Turkey is hunting for ISIS fighters transiting from Europe, and back, Europe is condoning and flirting with the PKK. This disparity is untenable.

Not everyone is burying their head in the sand, though. Understanding for our position is growing in the United States. We are cultivating strong ties with China and Russia. Leading Gulf countries have classified the Gülen cult as a terrorist organisation. Britain is looking into Gülen’s involvement in the July coup as part of a parliamentary inquiry committee, taking testimony from witnesses and experts. This is an encouraging step. There is a new wind of pragmatism blowing in international affairs.

Europe, and the European Parliament should reaffirm that terrorism in all its guises is our first and common enemy. There can be no double standards when it comes to atrocities and suffering.

Subscribe to our newsletters