This year on the 15th of July we will all remember and remind ourselves what happened exactly one year ago in Turkey.
July 15 was not a typical military putsch. It is impossible to find the appropriate words to describe the brutality and treachery that the putschists displayed that night. It was the worst act of terror in the history of the Turkish Republic. They used lethal military weapons against innocent civilians who took to the streets to defend their democratic institutions. They killed unsuspecting military personnel who took them for their comrades in arms and commanders who refused to take part in the attempt. The putschists used fighter jets to bomb the Turkish Parliament, the Presidential Compound, the National Intelligence Headquarters, Special Forces Headquarters in an effort to subdue the resistance against them. They attempted to assassinate the President and the Prime Minister. On that night they took the lives of 250 Turkish citizens and wounded more than 2000 people.
July 15 was a trial of strength and perseverance for the Turkish democracy and the State. It makes us proud to have passed this test. All the political parties, both in government and in opposition, the uninfected elements of the Armed Forces, the Police Force and the media stood up against the putschists.
Above all, it was the people of Turkey from all backgrounds and political views who resisted and displayed a historic example of solidarity as they stood selflessly in front of the tanks and reclaimed their democratic rights.
Even on the night of 15 July, it was obvious that Fetullah Gülen, the man who calls himself “Imam of the Universe” and his disciples were behind this bloody attempt. His desire to take control of the Turkish State and to reinstitute the regime according to his perverted religious ethos was no secret in Turkey. For decades he directed his followers to infiltrate all critical state organs, such as the police, the judiciary and the armed forces.
As a matter of fact, the Turkish Government had already taken action against this mafia-like cultish organization and its financial resources before July 15. The decision to shut down prep-schools was a huge blow against this structure, since these schools were the main recruitment centers and a major financial source for FETÖ. It was followed by a series of administrative and judicial investigations into the criminal aspects of the organization, including their large-scale cheatings at the admission tests for public institutions, illegal wiretappings, money laundering operations, and many others. The police and the judiciary also had taken measures to discharge FETÖ members from their ranks. In short, FETÖ was about to lose its power in Turkey. Attempting to capture the state by their disciples disguised as army officers was their last chance to survive. Hence, we were able to identify the perpetrator as FETÖ even on July 15. We all know today that FETÖ (Fetullah Gülen Terrorist Organization) is a new generation terrorist organization that is based on hypocrisy, concealment and secrecy.
What was shocking for us, though, was the scale of their penetration to the Turkish Armed Forces. Their audacity to attack the Turkish state institutions and their sheer brutality were almost surreal. In other words, July 15 was a stark revelation of the existential threat that targeted the very foundations of the Turkish state.
FETÖ had in fact “moved through the arteries of the system without anyone noticing their existence” as advised by their leader Fetullah Gülen, and they had almost “reached all the power centers”; like the infection caused by a virus that gradually seizes vital organs of a body.
Now, after a year of extensive administrative, criminal and judicial investigations we have a better grasp of what happened on July 15 and the perpetrator that was behind it. There are 78 ongoing court cases in 23 different provinces with regard to the perpetrators. Prosecutors have gathered crucial evidence pointing to the unmistakable imprint of FETO behind the coup attempt. There are testimonies from thousands of officers and NCOs confessing their affiliation with FETÖ, video recordings and communications between the putschists, etc. The Turkish authorities have also managed to decode encrypted communication systems used only by FETÖ members. Criminal activities of FETÖ have also been investigated in more than a thousand different court cases, bringing to surface the darker undertakings of the organization.
The Turkish Government rightfully takes necessary and proportionate measures to suppress and eventually defeat this imminent threat. As acknowledged by the international human right mechanisms, in the course of the attempted coup, very serious crimes amounting to massive human rights violations have been committed by the plotters. These crimes should be punished.
Venice Commission of the Council of Europe further confirmed that Turkish state has the right and duty to take necessary measures to confront the threats against the state and the people. Utmost attention is paid for keeping the right balance between freedoms and security needs. Our international obligations are observed, as always. As part of our commitments, relevant international organizations are timely informed about the measures taken under state of emergency. Domestic administrative and judicial remedies exist for reviewing measures for those who claim they have been wrongfully suspected. To date, over 300 institutions that were shut down have been reopened. More than 30 thousand public employees have been reinstated through administrative boards of review.
Taking also into consideration the recommendations of the Council of Europe, an Inquiry Commission has been established to address the measures taken through Emergency decrees. With the establishment of the Inquiry Commission, the most important recommendation of the Council of Europe was fulfilled. This decision was announced by the Secretary General of the Council of Europe as a significant step forward, along with all other existing national remedies. The Inquiry Commission has also been recognized by the European Court of Human Rights as a domestic legal remedy.
We are determined to fight FETÖ with three things that they despise most: rule of law, morality, and democracy. We are committed to strengthen our democratic credentials, because we know that this is the only way to counter terrorism in all forms and manifestations. We are determined to fight such enemies of democracy through democracy.
FETÖ is not a benign civic education movement as some circles try hard to portray. It would be a huge mischaracterization to think of Gülen merely as a peaceful Islamic scholar and preacher. We are faced with a global enterprise, with global aspirations of power and dominance. FETÖ is present in more than 150 countries around the world, through schools, NGOs, lobbyists, media outlets and companies. What happened in Turkey one year ago is a reminder of what this organization may be capable of doing in other countries like Ethiopia. Hence we stand with our brothers and sisters in Ethiopia, as Ethiopia stood with us on the night of 15 July.
Although this coup attempt caused a serious trauma in Turkey, economic indicators prove we left the effects of the coup behind us. Despite 15 July, Turkey still posted a good level of economic growth in 2016 and we are looking forward to a 4,5-5 % growth at the end of 2017. We are also focusing on beefing up our relations with Ethiopia through new investments, increasing our trade volume and contributing in megaprojects such as the Awash-Weldia-Hara Gebeya railway. A Turkish firm is successfully constructing 400 km railway on this route full of mountains, so they had to build 12 tunnels and 51 bridges. Last weekend we had the honor to break the railway speed record of Ethiopia at a test ride together with H.E. Hailemariam Desalegn the Prime Minister of Ethiopia where we saw 105 km/h.
Turkish development agency TİKA continues important projects such as the restoration of King Negash’s tomb in Tigray. Once concluded this year, this project will display Ethiopia’s culture of tolerance and harmony between religions to foreign tourists visiting the site.
Turkish Maarif Foundation established to takeover the FETÖ schools worldwide is a big investor in the field of education and already took over FETÖ schools in many countries. They are now preparing to enter Ethiopia not only to take over the FETÖ schools and upgrade them, but also to open new branches in future throughout the country.
Many Turkish investors in different fields are visiting Ethiopia with a keen interest to be part of Ethiopia’s development history and walk the long path of development together with our Ethiopian brothers and sisters. Turkey is united and will continue to stand with Ethiopia.
By Fatih Ulusoy
Ambassador of Turkey in Ethiopia