In Turkey, democratic transparency defeats esoterism

The Turkish nation, with all its elements, is united against the insidious coup attempt.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan reviews a guard of honour as he arrives to the Turkish Parliament in Ankara
Turkey is now taking serious measures to consolidate its government against any other attempt that could endanger its future, writes Aktay [Reuters]

On July 4, a criminal judge in Turkey, Ilhan Karagoz – also known as one of the disciples of Fethullah Gulen in the judiciary – issued a court decision stating that Gulen was “The Mahdi”.

The Mahdi is the name given to a holy leader who, according to some Muslims, will be sent by God to guide humanity, calling them to follow Islam before the end of the world.

Karagoz incorporated himself in this fiction by designating himself as the so-called harbinger of Mahdi, as is written in some religious narratives.

Moreover, he issued a call for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, together with all cabinet and parliamentary members, hundreds of mayors, journalists and businessmen, to be taken into custody.

Karagoz has now been taken into custody, yet his scandalous verdict clearly demonstrates the extent of this Gulenist esoteric group’s conception of the world – and it helps us anticipate what Turkey would be like, should such a coup attempt succeed.

The night of the coup attempt

On July 15, Gulen unleashed his pawns – his disciples had been infiltrating into the Turkish army since the 1970s – against Turkish democracy. These pawns attempted to seize the government by brute force.

Millions of civilians flooded the streets to prevent the nefarious objectives of the coup plotters and forced them to surrender with their mere unarmed solidarity. That night, the putschists killed hundreds of civilians. Fortunately, at the end of the day, they lost and people saved the democracy.

The Turkish nation, with all its elements – including the staunch critics of the Justice and Development Party (AK party) – united against the insidious coup attempt. Almost all segments of society echoed the same message to the whole world. Yet this event bears the characteristics of a litmus test for global media coverage.

We are already accustomed to widespread criticism, particularly aimed at Erdogan, parroting his so-called authoritarianism. There was no change on this occasion.

OPINION: The strategic consequences of Turkey’s failed coup

Once again, he had his share of being the target of unjust assault even before any serious condemnation of the bloody coup attempt. Pedantic criticism of Erdogan’s – potential – attitude towards coup plotters accompanied whispered expressions of condemnation of the coup.

Reactions from the global community in this sense have helped to reveal Westerners’ sincerity and consistency on embracing democracy. Once again their attitude reflects a crude repetition of orientalism, in the same way they reacted against General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s coup in Egypt back in 2013.

According to them, eastern – particularly Muslim – societies lack pluralism, civil society and personal liberties. There is nothing to learn – especially on the concept of democracy – from the easterners.

How do the Gulenists work?

Another source of confusion in the minds of obsessive opponents is the lack of understanding of the Gulenist organisation. It is also the main reason behind the sniff at the heroic victory of the Turkish nation against coup plotters.

Although the Gulenist organisation might be quite alien to some Westerners, at least they should take into account the details of how Gulen started this organisation and the methods he used to covertly infiltrate into bureaucratic institutions.

Those who direct the sharpest arrows of criticism at Erdogan since day one, should realise the extent of threat Turkey has faced.


The most remarkable thing about their organisational structure is the peculiar hierarchy they adopt. In their idiosyncratic chain of hierarchy, an elementary school teacher might possess the authority to give orders to an army general.

Day by day, confessions of the plotters revealed the scope of the decade-long underhand project of Gulen and shed light on his final treason.

One criticism to deal with the failed coup attempt centres on the number of people taken into custody or dismissed from public service and other institutions.

Recalling how the Gulenists boasted about the number of their followers gives an insight into the number of people involved in the plot.

OPINION: People defeated the coup in Turkey

For years, Gulenists were boasting of having millions of supporters. This attempt was clearly organised by hundreds, including the allies in various departments of the government.

Some experts estimate that had the Gulenists not attempted to overthrow the government, they would have controlled 90 percent of the command echelon of the Turkish military by 2023. Consequently, such a large-scale bloody attempt would inevitably involve thousands.

Were Gulen and Erdogan allies?

Gulen has always worked in harmony with various Turkish governments. He has never missed any opportunity that would brace his organisation. He was always careful not to clash with any government, let alone have any critical stance against previous coups.

His pragmatism continued during the rule of the AK party. Obviously Gulenists exploited the AK party’s reforms and the democratisation initiatives with the aim of increasing their power within the bureaucratic and civil society circles.

OPINION: Coups work only for autocracies, not democracies

Moreover, Erdogan’s governments were not categorically against religiosity. Freedom of religious expression was fully guaranteed, and religiosity was no longer an obstacle to being in public service.

The ostensible alliance between Erdogan and Gulen made it easier for the latter to deeply penetrate into the government.

Erdogan was initially neutral towards the Gulenists. Nevertheless, after realising that they were following a different agenda, respecting an autotelic chain of hierarchy and increasingly posing a threat to the legitimate bureaucratic hierarchy, the government started to take measures to avoid what it termed as a “parallel state”.

Extreme threat

Various analyses in the aftermath of the coup attempt have been quite different from previous ones targeting Erdogan or the AK party. Those who have directed the sharpest arrows of criticism at Erdogan since day one should realise the extent of the threat that Turkey has faced.


Social media is vibrant with the recordings of the putschists’ atrocities and people’s unprecedented resistance in the name of protecting democracy and the very legitimate ground of politics.

Turkey is now taking serious measures to consolidate its government against any other attempt that could endanger its future.

This momentous campaign is run both by the ruling and opposition parties. Hence, before reformulating obsolete arguments, journalists need to have a far better insight into the actuality of the cause celebre in Turkey.

Yasin Aktay is a Justice and Development Party member of the parliament and head of the Turkish Group of Inter-Parliamentary Union.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.