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Fethullah Terrorist Organization (FETO) and Parallel State Structure

On 15 July, Turkey and Turkish nation went through a dramatic chain of events that caught the millions in Turkey and beyond unaware. Rogue army officers who belonged to the Gülenist Terrorist Organization/Parallel State Structure (FETO/PSS) staged a bloody coup, which cost the lives of 251 people and injured more than 2,195. The Government, opposition parties, civil society organizations and ordinary citizens joined together and defended the democratic order. This was an historic moment for Turkey. Since the defeat of the coup attempt, numerous questions have been raised about the instigators, their motivations and Gülenist terrorists around the world. Let’s check out the background of the events in Turkey and the role, ideology and methodology of the Gülenists.

Brief Introduction to FETO/PSS

The Paralell State Structure (FETO/PSS) is a secretive clandestine cult which was established by Fetullah Gülen in the early 1970s. In the early days F.Gulen built its ideological foundation on the teachings of Said Nursi but later parted hid ways. From 1974 onwards, Gülen formed his own network sought strategic allies. Gülen’s approach toward the state, as well as his obsession with secrecy leading to what felt more like a personal cult than a conventional religious group were criticized by the main stream groups and scholars. Over the years, Gülen has emerged as a “messianic figure” that controls each and every aspects of the life of his followers.

One of Gülen’s main objectives was to protect his cult’s interests at any cost at critical times. For that purpose, Gülen supported the 1980 military coup, which shut down all political parties and associations, imprisoned and tortured tens of thousands and executed dozens of people. Gülen wrote “The Last Barrack” immediately after the coup where he praised military officers and expressed his strong support for military authority. The military intervention of 28 February 1997, also called a post-modern coup, was also supported by Gülen and his followers. Gülen praised oe of the chief architects of the February 28 “post-modern” coup d’état, Çevik Bir, in a letter he penned in late 1997. Interestingly enough, these interventions created a social and political atmosphere which was highly beneficial to Gülenists for spreading their network.

From 1974 until the 1990s, F. Gülen spent all his energy to enlarge his network. Starting from İzmir, his followers opened private colleges and tutoring centers. The end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union opened new avenues for Gülen. He first expanded his network in the Turkish Republics, and eventually established a presence in 160 countries around the world. Starting from the mid-1990s, Gülen began to present himself and his movement as the enlightened and pro-Western face of progressive Islam. Especially in the face of growing radicalism and fear after 11 September, this became a strategic move for Gülen rather than an ideological one.

In terms of its structural pattern and “modus operandi”, the FETO/PSS is a “sui generis” criminal/terror organization. The uniqueness of FETO as a terrorist group comes from their use of legal means and institutions as a cover to achieve illegal objectives. Unlike other ordinary terrorist groups, they did not seek to acquire guns or power illegally, because as civil servants, military and police officers, these were delivered and give them them to legality. Since its establishment, the main agenda of FETO has been to infiltrate critical state institutions and wait until they are in full control.

“Taqiyah” is the key tactical concept to understand Gülen’s ideology, its organization and FETO members. In a broad sense, “taqiyah” can be defined as concealment and dissimulation. According to this concept, members of the cult are permitted to violate religious codes in order to blend in with the non-religious majority in certain organizations they are asked to infiltrate. Since the arly days, Gülen has indoctrinated his followers to practice “taqiyah”. Accordingly, Gülen supporters his their identities and posed as leftist, rightist, liberal, secularist, religious, pious, etc. Gülen instructs his followers to hide their real identities and use any means to reach their goals. The cult’s Machiavellian philosophy encourages them to use any method whatsoever, including illegal wiretappings, distorted investigations, fabricated evidence, and bribes and blackmail.

Organizational Structure, Image vs. Reality

FETO/PSS has a two-tiered organizational model and a strict hierarchy. The first layer is the legal side. On appearance, F.Gülen heads a civil movement called “Hizmet” [Service]. Again on appearance, “Hizmet” is a moderate, tolerant, non-violent, pro-dialogue social movement, rather than o political one. Over a long period of time in Turkey and overseas, FETO/PSS portrayed itself as an “education movement” involved in interfaith dialogue, relief work and cultural activities. The variety of associations in media, education, humanitarian work, printing and banking sector, business associations etc. Were established first in Turkey and later in different parts of the world. Under the guise of legitimate social service efforts, Gülen and his followers gained access to vast financial resources, human capital, political and social influence. They also infiltrated critical state institutions such as the national police, intelligence, judiciary, armed forces, central bank, treasury, prime ministry or the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey. FETO/PSS then used this vast network to advance its hidden agenda. Senior government officials, businessmen, academics, political party leaders, journalists, actors, heads of non-governmental organizations have been targeted by FETO/PSS when they refused to cooperate. Some of these people were put in prison based on false accusations, or even worse, killed.

The probes by the Turkish High Court since 2013 revealed FETO/PSS tight hierarchical organization which includes the “Appointment Committee”, “Advisory Council”, “The Group of Mullahs” and “Majlis”. The hierarchical ranks of FETO/PSS are the so-called imam of the world, continental imam, country imam, regional imam, province imam, district imam, neighbourhood imam, house imam, head guides, students and congregational members. In the organizational structure of FETO/PSS, F.Gülen is seen as the “Imam of the Universe/World” by his followers. The Gülenists consider him not just a religious cleric, but also the “awaited one” or the Messiah. FETO/PSS is structured as a “pyramid” where the top-level imams give orders to the second level imams who in turn give orders to the third level. Gülen chairs the Governing Group (Committee) composed of the seven highest-ranking members of the cult. The organization is leader-centered and uses clandestine methods such as writing messages on tissue paper, encrypted communication, hiding identity, blackmail, intelligence gathering through its members in society.

High ranking members of FETO/PSS use code names and take an oath that promises strict obedience and loyalty to the cult. Oath-taking is quite important ceremony within FETO/PSS. Just like organized crime groups, whose practice of taking oaths seeks to strengthen loyalty to the organization, FETO also enforces oath-taking as an insurance mechanism. Especially until 1999, before Gülen left Turkey for USA, critical members of FETO/PSS used to take their oaths in the presence of Gülen. During these ceremonies Gülen himself re-decorated the uniforms of military and police officers according to their ranks.

Those FETO members who break their oaths are severely punished. They are not only cast of the cult from which they benefit in many ways but are also subjected to a lynch campaign socially, economically and psychologically. Nurettin Veren and Latif Erdoğan are two victims of Gülen’s lynch campaign. They were very close associates of Gülen for years, before parting their ways with him. Veren and Erdoğan were subjected to inquiries and blackmail by the Gülenist police officers for a long time. In addition to the harsh consequences of leaving the organization, FETO/PSS members are incentivized financially to stay in the cult, through illegally gained assets, privileges, employment etc.9 The FETO/PSS structure does not leave much room for individuality and most militants at the lower levels of the structure do not know much about what is going on at the higher levels. The clandestine side of FETO/PSS is organized in disparate, small and perplexing “cells” which makes it difficult for security forces to decipher and break the chain of command. This is especially the case with government institutions which the cult refers to as “confidential areas,” such as the intelligence agencies, police, army and prime ministry. Each member of FETO/PSS in these high-profile institutions is tagged to only one other member. Therefore, even when a FETO/PSS cell is revealed, security officials cannot go further than a handful of people. It should also be noted that, for the persons who are working in the “confidential areas”, FETO/PSS has chosen wives or husbands trough arrenged marriages to minimize the risk of exposure. For instance, the key high ranking officers who took part in the latest coup d’état have filed for divorce just before the attempt. The real reason behind FETO/PSS’s focus on education cannot be explained in purely humanitarian terms. The educational establishments are the main recruitment ground of human resources for FETO/PSS. These schools are a constant, rich source of bright young minds for the cult.

FETO/PSS starts to educate its future members from a young age, commencing when the child turns 13. When a student is deemed ready for the next step, he is introduced to an elder contact person outside the school and invited to a house used by the Gülenists as a cell. Especially sharp students often from economically disadvantaged backgrounds are selected by the Gülenist, and the Abi’s (the elder brothers) socialize, indoctrinate and train them in apartments reserved only for the police and military academy candidates. The next promise of FETO/PSS to its young members is admission to leading universities, a secure job upon graduation and regular promotion at the state institutions or in the private sector. In this process, FETO has stolen questions for the higher education entrance exams and made them available to its top students.11 As a natural result, top students in FETO institutions were routinely placed in top universities. In exchange, the followers would donate 10-20 percent of their future salaries to FETO/PSS. This tactic was extremely effective in Turkey and has resulted in the infiltration of key state institutions. For that reason, the model is being copied around the world.

It should be noted that, while underprivileged students were targeted for recruitment in Turkey, Gülen chose to recruit children of middleand upper-class families in other countries. Particularly in Africa and Central Asia, they offered certain favors to the children of ruling elites. For instance, right after the announcement of Barack Obama as the Democratic Party candidate for presidential elections in 2008, their schools offered scholarships and free education to Obama’s relatives in Kenya. This is not a unique case in Kenya. From Afghanistan to Albania, from the Turkic Republics to Asian countries where the Gülenists operate, the children or relatives of high level bureaucrats, businessmen and politicians were targeted by the educational establishment. In addition, the so-called Light Houses [Işık Evleri] with 5-6 students each and dormitories are used to recruit and indoctrinate the new generation.

The Gülenist educational institutions are not immune from controversy either. The abuse of students or irregularities in the schools are suppressed or covered up in most cases. The families or the workers are silenced when they intend to come forward. One of the most heartbreaking examples is the case of Mahir Rakovac in Bosnia. Mahir was a 14 year old student at Sarajevo International School which belongs to F. Gülen. Due to bullying from his school mates and the negligence of his teachers, Mahir committed suicide on the 14th of December 2015.12 His family was very critical of the school management and accused them of being negligent. The family claimed that instead of dealing with the problem, the school management tried to cover up the scandal. After Mahir death, more students came forward to claim that they were subjected to pressure, violence and abuse both from their teachers and schoolmates. After these revelations, people took to the street in large numbers and demanded from the authorities to close down the Gülenist establishments in Bosnia. Overall, FETO’s tactics emphasize getting to know one’s opponent, showing intimacy to gain their trust, recruiting and educating bright students and placing them in senior positions of leading state institutions, establishing strong financial muscle through global business activity, and establishing alliances with powerful local and foreign individuals.

Written by Coup Facts:

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