Turkish Coup - 4 Year Anniversary

By Ekim Alptekin

July 15, 2020

Four years ago, on July 15, 2016, followers of Fethullah Gulen in the Turkish Armed Forced attempted to violently overthrow the democratically elected government and seize power. With Fethullah Gulen residing in the U.S. as a legal permanent resident, it became crucial for us to help our American allies understand the threat that he constitutes. 


Immediately after the coup attempt, Turks mobilized to save the Republic. On my own account, as a businessman chairing the Turkish-U.S. Business Council, I tried to rise to the occasion by engaging a team of American experts who enjoy credibility, to independently research the crimes of Gulenists. I also met with Members of Congress and other American decision-makers. To illustrate the magnitude of the national trauma we had suffered, I would refer to the night of July 15 as our 9/11. Since then, after studying the American civil war more closely, I realize that a better comparison exists. During the coup attempt of July 15, 2016, the Turkish people knew that in the absence of a strong response the government would fall and our unity and the Republic would be lost; perhaps forever. Parliament, the Presidency, Police Headquarters, the National Intelligence Agency were among the many buildings attacked. Hundreds of people including the Joint Chiefs of Staff were detained. F16's and tanks aimed and fired on civilians. The enemy was no ordinary terrorist group and no outside enemy either; they came from within. In similarity with Lincoln's government faced with a domestic rebellion, the highest priority of Turkey's leaders was to preserve the Republic. 


For decades followers of Fethullah Gulen infiltrated key positions in civilian government and in the military. After their true face became visible to even the AK Party government with whom they used to be aligned, their civilian and judicial infrastructure has been largely dismantled. Desperate to survive, they chose to activate their cells in the military. 


In my opinion, the least likely scenario after the coup attempt, a quick containment of the military, has materialized. A more likely outcome would have been civil war in Turkey. The government was faced with the decision to either ask loyal forces to fight and defend the constitution or to surrender and save the peace. The leadership shown by President Erdoğan and the determination of the Turkish people prevented Turkey from gliding into chaos. Like Abraham Lincoln, Erdoğan chose to fight to save the Republic. Although a civil war in Turkey is no longer an option, our fight is not over. Faced with similar stakes, the Lincoln administration chose to suspend habeas corpus and infringed on civil liberties by imprisoning one-third of the Maryland legislature, imprisoned reporters of newspapers and declared martial law. 


Despite the obvious truth that we are also facing an existential threat, you, our long-time ally, criticize our response and express outrage with the way we handle this struggle. And yet you offer no word of condemnation to those who wage war on us, kill our children, our teachers, our police men and women, our soldiers, our doctors, our sons and daughters. They try to violently overthrow our government, bomb our parliament and kill our citizens. And yet you offer no action against these terrorists who find safe harbor on your soil. From your cities, enjoying the safety that you provide them, they continue to terrorize our Republic and offer hope to their followers that a new spring will come. And yet you expect that we, Turkey's civil society, join you in criticizing our own government. I see no honor in that. 


Surely our elected officials make mistakes, and they may have a different world view than some of us, but in their fight to preserve the Republic from which all our rights are derived, out of many, we are one. Gulen is not an opposition leader. Turkey in its entirety including its opposition, even the more marginal Kurdish nationalist party, agrees on the need to bring Fethullah Gulen and his henchmen to justice. 


The United States has to make a choice between a long-time ally with whom it has fought shoulder to shoulder in every major conflict since the Second World War, 80 million united Turks, or a dangerous psychopath pretending to be a peaceful Muslim cleric with a network of schools in the United States. 


General Flynn, after researching Gulenist activities on U.S. soil at my behest, made it clear what his choice would be in his oped on election day. I agree on his analysis of Gulenists but I did not commission this oped which, contrary to Turkish foreign policy, also refers to the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization. The Gulenist PR machine, paid for from the hundreds of millions of dollars Gulenist charter schools receive each year from American taxpayers, went to work to convince mainstream media that Lieutenant General Flynn, one of America's most decorated warriors and a former Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, was an agent of the Turkish government. Emboldened by the willingness of liberal media, absent any evidence, to believe an American General who has served in the front lines for decades committed treason, they pushed further and tried to convince U.S. prosecutors that a crime was committed. Seven months after the only meeting I organized that was attended by General Flynn, former CIA director Jim Woolsey came out and lied to the American public about the nature of that meeting. I can only guess why Woolsey was willing to blatantly lie but six months earlier during a New York lunch he aggressively tried to convince me to hire him instead of the Flynn Intel Group for a meager 10 Million dollars. General Flynn may be many things but he is certainly not an agent of any foreign government. The time has come for American decision-makers to make the right choice between an Islamist imam who pretends to be a prophet and a decades old NATO ally.