One current government minister claimed that they spent their whole life in the company of Gülenists, said a former deputy for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), Mustafa Yeneroğlu, while speaking on a television program earlier this week.
“Someone who says ‘I spent my life there’ can still comfortably be a cabinet minister. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of people regret being born due to be being accused of being members of a terrorist organization just for attending [Gülenist] conversation groups,” Yeneroğlu said.
Gülen movement, an ally-turned-foe of the AKP, is widely believed to have been behind the July 15, 2016 failed coup attempt. The government blames Gülen for the July 2016 coup attempt and refer to his followers as the Fethullahist Terror Organization (FETÖ).
While Erdoğan’s AKP and Gülenists had strong ties in the past, their relations were soured in 2013 when prosecutors close to the preacher launched corruption probes targeting key AKP figures and their family members. The Gülenists were infamous for occupying large numbers of important positions in state institutions and launching sham trials to destroy their opponents, efforts which were backed by the AKP and Erdoğan.
After the July 2016 coup attempt, the government engaged in a mass purge of thousands of state employees, police officers, judges and military officers believed to be Gülenists, while launching investigations into more than 700,000 citizens on charges of being members of a terrorist organization.
“This alone is a disaster. If there is a country with a terrorist organization with that many members, it would mean that the country has collapsed. A terrorist organization cannot have hundreds of thousands of members,” Yeneroğlu said.
Yeneroğlu, who had become known for his increasing criticism of the AKP while serving as a deputy from the ruling party, split from the AKP last year. This year, he joined the breakaway opposition Democracy and Progress Party (DEVA), which was established by former AKP co-founder and Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan, a respected economist and longtime ally of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.