Wednesday

25th Apr 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.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

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.

More commitment to renewables from Council, please

More and more consumers are likely to invest in solar panels in the future as it becomes simpler to produce one's own electricity, writes Monique Goyens, director general of BEUC, the European Consumer Organisation.

News in Brief

  1. UN expects over $4bn in pledges for Syria
  2. Commission wants more public data made available for reuse
  3. Study: Brexit will hit all European farmers
  4. European media face rise in 'verbal violence' from politicians
  5. Greenland PM to keep power despite poll slump
  6. Commissioner optimistic on FYROM name solution
  7. Italian court keeps NGO migrant rescue boat docked
  8. German Jews warned not to wear skullcap in public

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Sustainable Energy Week 2018"Lead the Clean Energy Transition"- Register and Join Us in Brussels from 5 to 7 May
  2. EU Green Week 2018Green Cities for a Greener Future. Join the Debate in Brussels from 22 to 24 May
  3. Nordic Council of Ministers12 Recommendations for Nordic Leadership on Climate and Environment
  4. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOxford Professor Calls for an End to the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  5. ACCAPeople Who Speak-Up Should Feel Safe to Do So
  6. Mission of China to the EUProgress on China-EU Cooperation
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersWorld's Energy Ministers to Meet in Oresund in May to Discuss Green Energy
  8. ILGA EuropeParabéns! Portugal Votes to Respect the Rights of Trans and Intersex People
  9. Mission of China to the EUJobs, Energy, Steel: Government Work Report Sets China's Targets
  10. Martens CentreJoin Us at NET@WORK2018 Featuring Debates on Migration, Foreign Policy, Populism & Disinformation
  11. European Jewish CongressKantor Center Annual Report on Antisemitism Worldwide - The Year the Mask Came Off
  12. UNICEFCalls for the Protection of Children in the Gaza Strip

Latest News

  1. Whistleblowers could be enforcers of rule of law in Europe
  2. EU shelves Macron idea for 'European Darpa'
  3. Don't play EU 'games' with military HQs, Italian admiral says
  4. EU had a plan for Jordan - now it's time to make it work
  5. Time for EU to take charge of global health research agenda
  6. EU in race to set global Artificial Intelligence ethics standards
  7. Juncker delays air quality action due to busy agenda
  8. Spain makes bid for EU naval HQ

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUForeign Minister Wang Yi Highlights Importance of China-EU Relations
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersImmigration and Integration in the Nordic Region - Getting the Facts Straight
  3. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMacedonians in Bulgaria Demand to End the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  4. Counter BalanceThe EIB Needs to Lead by Example on Tax Justice
  5. ILGA EuropeTrans People in Sweden to be Paid Compensation for Forced Sterilisation
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsThe Danger of Standing Up for Justice and Rights in Central Asia
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Must Work Together to Promote Global Steel Sector
  8. Swedish EnterprisesEU Tax Proposal on Digital Services Causes Concern for Small Exporting Economies
  9. European Jewish CongressCondemns the Horrific Murder of Holocaust Survivor Mireille Knoll in Paris
  10. Mission of China to the EUAn Open China Will Foster a World-Class Business Environment
  11. ECR GroupAn Opportunity to Help Shape a Better Future for Europe
  12. Counter BalanceControversial Turkish Azerbaijani Gas Pipeline Gets Major EU Loan