Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has expressed his regret for helping the Fethullah Gülen organization in the past and not being able to show the group’s real face to the people of Turkey, pledging to account for this on behalf of the nation and God. Fethullah Gülen and his organization are believed to have been behind the July 15 failed coup attempt that left at least 238 dead.
“Late [President Turgut] Özal, late [President Süleyman] Demirel, late [Prime Minister Bülent] Ecevit and even us, we helped this structure with good will, although we were politicians and statesmen with different [world] views. Let me speak frankly. On my behalf, I also helped them on the grounds that we met on common ground, although there were so many issues on which I did not agree with them,” Erdoğan said in an address to the Extraordinary Religion Council on Aug 3.
The reason why the Gülenist organization was able to live within society like a constantly-growing virus was its religious values, Erdoğan said, adding that this characteristic of the group was always supported by the Turkish public opinion throughout this time.
“Despite all our reservations about the leader of this organization, I showed tolerance to them out of respect for their education, aid and solidarity activities in the country and abroad. We showed tolerance as they were saying ‘God.’ We said we had common ground,” Erdoğan said.
Erdoğan admitted that he failed to see the organization’s real intentions and long-term objectives until 2010, after which he started to look at the group in a different way, recalling that he started to voice his reservations against the group in 2012. The president further confessed that he could not even convince some of his friends in his political party about some of the group’s suspicious acts, such as targeting senior military officers and prominent personalities within the state civil service and private sector.
The corruption and fraud probe that was launched in late 2013 was the turning point in starting to see the real face of the Gülenist organization, the president stated. “But I know that there are still those who don’t want to believe in it. I know there are still those who look at [it] but can’t see it. From this moment, the era of suspicion is over and the era of fighting has started.”
‘May God and my nation forgive us’
The president expressed his sorrow over not being able to show the real face of the Gülenist organization to the Turkish people, saying “Despite everything, I deplore not being able to uncover the real face of this organization. I know that we have to account to both God and the nation. May God and my nation forgive us.”
It was time to let these people pay account for what they did and at the same time to self-criticize, he said, expressing his determinacy in fighting Gülenists organization members. “I declare from this hall: After this hour, those who will continue to give an ear to the deliriums of this terrorist leader in Pennsylvania [Gülen] will accept beforehand whatever will happen to him or her,” he added.
One of the most important characteristics of the members of this organization was their ability to pretend and hide their faces behind a mask, Erdoğan claimed, adding that was why he still had difficulties accepting the sincerity of former Gülenists who expressed their regrets. “Do they really regret? I do not say this in a revanchist manner but are they really regretful? Or are they hypocritical, a characteristic of this very group. We have difficulty seeing this,” Erdoğan said.