Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) have slammed the network of U.S.-based Fethullah Gülen over an advertisement on New York's Times Square that read "Stop Erdoğan."
AKP spokesperson Ömer Çelik said that the Gülen movement, which is officially called the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ), is an enemy of Turkey.
"FETÖ leaders are enemies of humanity and Turkey just like the PKK," Çelik said on March 4, using the abbreviation of Kurdistan Workers' Party, which is designated as a terrorist organization by Ankara, the U.S. and the European Union.
FETÖ terör örgütü Türkiye düşmanı tüm ihanet projelerinin gönüllü kölesidir. Fetö yöneticileri tıpkı PKK gibi insanlık düşmanı ve Türkiye düşmandır. Bunların Cumhurbaşkanımıza saldırıları milletimize düşman oldukları içindir.— Ömer Çelik (@omerrcelik) March 4, 2021
"FETÖ is an enemy of Turkey and hence our president. This treacherous network added to their betrayals by targeting our president with ads filled with lies. Their attacks on our president stem from their enmity against our people," he noted.
The ad was placed by a group called Advocates of Silenced Turkey, which claims to be committed to "give a voice to all people oppressed in Turkey."
In addition to the "Stop Erdoğan" ad, they have called for an end to femicides in Turkey, as well as drawing attention to the fact that scores of women and children are imprisoned. The ad was also placed in New York City.
The group's website is currently banned in Turkey and their ads were seen to be praised by staunch supporters of Gülen.
According to Çelik, the Gülenists see President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as the "biggest obstacle in the face of their plans of treason."
"That's why they engage in Erdoğan enmity all over the world. FETÖ is the voluntary slave of all treason projects that are enemies of Turkey," Çelik said.
"Our president has the people's support. FETÖ has the support of anti-Turkey networks. The fight against FETÖ is a national mobilization. The struggle against this terror and treachery network will continue with our president's skilled governance," he noted.
Another AKP official to slam the ad was Hüseyin Yayman, who called those who gave the ad "rabid dogs."
"Erdoğan will continue to be the nightmare of imperialists," Yayman said on Twitter.
New York, Time Square'de reklam panolarına "Stop Erdoğan" yazdıran kudurmuş itler!— Hüseyin Yayman 🇹🇷 (@HuseyinYayman) March 4, 2021
Alayınız bir araya gelseniz asla başaramayacaksınız!
Milletin Adamı @RTErdogan , sessizlerin sesi, mazlumların ümidi ve emperyalistlerin korkulu rüyası olmaya devam edecek#ErdoğanınYanındayız 🇹🇷 pic.twitter.com/fRj3y9wPpH
Once close allies
A former close ally of Erdoğan's AKP, the Gülen movement is behind numerous judicial plots carried out to infiltrate into state institutions. The ties between them were severed following a 2013 graft probe launched by prosecutors close to the network, mainly due to the conflict of interests.
The period that Erdoğan and the Gülenists were close was also dark in terms of human rights, with all critics of the network ending up in jail.
The network is widely believed to have orchestrated the July 15, 2016 failed coup attempt that led to the deaths of over 250 individuals. The coup was followed by a state of emergency that lasted for two years, which saw major human rights abuses by the government. Erdoğan and the AKP defended themselves by saying that the crackdown on dissent was necessary for national security.
Turkey has long been asking the U.S. to extradite Fethullah Gülen, but Washington says that Ankara didn't provide sufficient evidence for him to be handed over to Turkey.
Turks flood ad company with emails, phone calls
The ad, meanwhile, was removed upon the objections of the Turkish-American National Steering Committee (TASC).
Speaking to state-run Anadolu Agency, TASC co-chair Halil Mutlu said the ad "outraged" the Turkish-American community, who he said flooded the advertising company with emails and phone calls.
Mutlu said the TASC reached out to the managers of the advertising company and informed them about the Gülen network's activities and the botched coup in Turkey.
"They told us they were not aware of these [things]. They only broadcast the ad as a commercial enterprise," he said.
TASC Vice President İsrafil Demir said he was "proud" that the Turkish-American community raised its voice against the ad.
"A Turkish diaspora is emerging in the U.S., which is a unified voice against injustice, that reacts bravely and defends its cause. The Turkish-American community proved it," said Demir.
Probe launched into ad
Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor's Office, meanwhile, said that a probe was launched into those who gave the ad.