Tuesday

17th Jul 2018

Opinion

Erdogan's diplomats have become 'Gulenist-busters'

  • Initially feted by the West, Turkey's Erdogan has become the bete-noir of civil rights activists, jailing journalists, lawyers and academics (Photo: Reuters)

Their European counterparts usually admired Ottoman diplomats as talented public servants.

As famously (or infamously) declared by the Russian Czar Nicholas I, the Ottoman Empire was the sick man of Europe throughout the 19th century.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... our join as a group

Yet, thanks to these talented diplomats, it survived by cleverly using the balance of power in Europe and by always knowing with which great power to align with. It was this diplomatic tradition that the Turkish Republic inherited and got relative respect from its friends and foes alike.

This was more or less the case until recently.

When corruption charges erupted in 2013, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the then prime minister of Turkey gathered all ambassadors in Ankara and ordered them to hunt down Gulenists, get their schools and associations closed and get them extradited to Turkey, if possible.

For Erdogan there was no corruption but a soft coup attempt on his government. From then on, Turkish diplomats' number one mission was to become 'Gulenist-busters'.

As a journalist, I reported on foreign affairs for over 20 years and met many Turkish diplomats, most of them decent men.

When Erdogan had that meeting with the ambassadors, I had a chance to speak to one of those present in the room.

Gulen or go

He told me that there was no way he would do what the prime minister was asking him to do. It was against everything he held dear: chasing one's own citizens without any credible evidence. Soon, many diplomats who refused to turn into Gulenist-hunters were not promoted, demoted or, worse, expelled from the ministry.

Last week, a Belgian newspaper broke the story that the location of twitter accounts which personally and specifically threatened my colleagues and me in Belgium was nowhere but the Turkish Embassy.

A man named Selim Guzel - who called himself 'a pragmatic thinker' on his twitter profile - had started to threaten us right after the botched coup of July 15th, 2016.

Nobody knew the guy but he kept tweeting, accusing Turks of Belgium for not taking action against people like me. Silent Turks were also being mildly warned: 'if you are silent about these people, then you are with them'.

One of my colleagues, Rıza Dogan, who was forcibly ousted from the Turkish Embassy when covering elections in Brussels back in 2015, went to police to lodge a complaint against 'Selim Guzel'.

Call the cops

After 18 months of investigation, he was recently summoned to the police station and was told that 'Mr SG' was actually threatening us all from a computer in the Turkish embassy, and owned by the Turkish embassy.

The daily Het Laatste Nieuws (HLN) that broke the story asked the Turkish Embassy if it had a diplomat called Selim Guzel working for them.

The first response was a short one: no.

Then it changed its statement saying a diplomat called SG had not worked for the Turkish Embassy in the year 2016. However, the Turkish Embassy was caught red handed as HLN published SG's tweets with a real Turkish diplomat during their visit to Bosnia in 2016.

Before SG, we were already being threatened by the so-called press attache of the Turkish Embassy, Veysel Filiz. Filiz was as confident as to publicly threaten us that 'it was our turn and our lairs were soon to be raided'.

There is now a new generation of diplomats in the Turkish foreign ministry who have turned themselves into skilled huntsman of Gulenists. Being a good hunter is now the fastest and safest way to get promoted in the ministry.

In October last year, Erdogan while addressing his party faithful said: "Neither in the East nor in the West is a single member of this organisation comfortable as before, nor will they be. If not today, then tomorrow, one day every member of the FETO [the Turkish government's acronym for the 'Gulenist Terrorist Organisation'] traitors' front will pay for his treason against the country and the nation."

According to a recent piece published by Foreign Affairs magazine, Turkey is now pursuing an aggressive policy of silencing its perceived enemies in at least 46 countries in four continents.

It has revoked tens of thousands of passports and succeeded in the arrest and deportation of Turkish citizens from 16 countries including many under UN protection.

For this Herculean task, you need a huge ministry full of diplomats committed to use their negotiating skills not to increase Turkish trade or to get visa-free travel to Europe for their citizens but to catch Gulenists and get them deported to Turkey.

It is very sad to see Turkish diplomatic services once hailed for their extraordinary capabilities evolving into cheerleaders of Erdogan's global authoritarian reach.

Selcuk Gultasli was Brussels bureau chief of the Turkish newspaper Zaman. Zaman was closed by decree of the Turkish government in July 2016.

Subsequent to the publication of this opinion piece, an emailed statement in French from the Turkish embassy to the EU asked us to state the following: "There was no one called Selim Guzel among our employees. In 2016 we didn't have any employee with that name. We are therefore not aware of the complaint that was filed against this person. Also Veysel Filiz, a former press adviser at the embassy, definitively left his post on 28 April 2017, and therefore has no link anymore with the embassy. Mr Filiz doesn't work either in any Turkish public institution.

Gulen faithful at work in EU capital

Persecuted in Turkey as the alleged authors of the July putsch, the followers of Islamic teacher Fethullah Gulen are highly active in the EU capital.

Turkey 'ready' to reform terror laws for EU visa deal

Faruk Kaymakci, Turkey's ambassador to the EU, says Ankara is ready to reform its anti-terror laws and meet all outstanding benchmarks so that Turks can travel freely to EU member states without visas.

How the World Cup exposed Russian chauvinism

The suggestion that Russians themselves play a role in the condition of their state today is often dismissed as "xenophobic" or "Russophobic". But if not addressed, the evils of nationalism, chauvinism, and imperialism will continue even after Putin is gone.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  2. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  4. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  6. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  8. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  9. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  11. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  12. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs

Latest News

  1. EU and Japan wave light in Trump's 'darkness'
  2. How Israel silences Palestine in EU circles
  3. Putin asks Trump to go after British activist
  4. May caves in to Brexiteer demands, risking 'no deal'
  5. EU and China agree on words, not yet on action
  6. EU is 'foe', as Trump seeks to make friends with Putin
  7. Let's not be 'naive' with Chinese partner, says senior MEP
  8. Trump, trade, and Brexit in EU headlines This WEEK

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersCooperation in Nordic Electricity Market Considered World Class Model
  2. FIFAGreen Stadiums at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
  3. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development
  4. Counter BalanceEuropean Ombudsman Requests More Lending Transparency from European Investment Bank
  5. FIFARecycling at the FIFA World Cup in Russia
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  7. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and Reconciliation Is a Process That Takes Decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  8. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up
  9. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOld White Men are Destroying Macedonia by Romanticizing Greece
  10. Counter BalanceControversial EIB-Backed Project Under Fire at European Parliament
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersIncome Inequality Increasing in Nordic Countries
  12. European Jewish CongressEU Leaders to Cease Contact with Mahmoud Abbas Until He Apologizes for Antisemitic Comments

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us