TRT World's new documentary Until We Take Control: The Story of the Failed Coup In Turkey examines how FETO was able to make inroads into Turkish society with an ultimate aim of power grab.
On the morning of July 16, 2016, after the coup attempt failed in Turkey, a university professor, a business executive and a computer engineer were arrested at Akinci Air Base near Ankara. All said they were in the area that night to look for land to buy. Most people in Turkey knew there was a coup taking place. Some were stockpiling food and withdrawing cash from ATMs because they didn’t know when life would return to normal. But these three said they had decided to go out to look for land to buy - right next to the airbase where the coup appeared to be masterminded from.
The arrest of Adil Oksuz, Kemal Batmaz and Harun Binis that night was a direct link for the Turkish authorities to Fetullah Gulen, the leader of Fetullah Terror Organisation (FETO). Oksuz was a regular traveller to the US, the home of Gulen, despite his relatively small salary, and a regular attendee at Gulen conferences and events. Batmaz had also travelled regularly to the US and had returned to Turkey on the same flight as Oksuz just before the coup attempt. Both Batmaz and Binis were seen on security camera in the base on the coup night. Neither had any obvious military connections but both worked for companies linked to FETO. And both were walking around a secure environment without supervision, talking to military officers.
Much has been written about the events leading up to the coup, and what has been done afterwards - much of it to make political points. But at the time, all four main parties in parliament came out against the coup, even the PKK-linked HDP, which is no friend of the governing AK Party. But once you get past the point scoring, there is some very strong circumstantial evidence against the main suspects and some very big questions about what these Gulen associates were doing there that night.
The story of how the Gulen network gained power and influence in Turkey is the story of an apparently religious movement that was able to exploit the changing nature of the state and society. When Turkey was dominated by the secular military, the organisation was able to appeal to more religious or conservative people who found themselves unable to express themselves fully. They also offered children of poorer families the chance of better education through their schools. And as time progressed, these children grew up to find jobs in areas such as the civil service, education, the military and judiciary. But even then, they were still supervised by the network. When they obtained positions of power, they were able to first target secular figures. Many were imprisoned in the now-discredited Ergenekon and Balyoz cases, now largely believed to have used fabricated evidence. Before the network then turned on the governing AK Party at the end of 2013.
As the years passed, more and more people became suspicious of the organisation. But it wasn’t until a police inquiry in the city of Konya in 2014, that security officials told us they, at last, realised the full extent of Gulenist activity. A plot by the network to frame a powerful businessman resulted in officers discovering documents listing more than 300 members, and 4,000 others connected to them. By interviewing these people, other names were revealed, and these too were interviewed. It was then that they discovered how most areas of society had been infiltrated by Gulenists, with people holding down influential jobs, but also at the same time, working towards other objectives. Almost like a family tree structure which was replicated throughout society and throughout the country. However members usually only knew their immediate superiors and those below them - and even then, they still used code names.
The documentary we’ve produced details that investigation by the Turkish authorities in Konya, and how such a strange and secretive organisation was able to make such inroads into society. We also look at the evidence against the main suspects and talk to people who have been members. We examine why it's proving difficult for Turkey to obtain Fetullah Gulen’s extradition from the US, and try to make sense of just what happened on the night of July 15, 2016.