Erdoğan targets top religious body for being late in fight against Gülen movement

Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan criticized Turkey’s Religious Affairs Directorate (Diyanet) for being late in struggle against faith-based Gülen movement which he blames its members for behind a controversial coup attempt last year.

Speaking during an event organized by Diyanet in İstanbul on Saturday, Erdoğan said the top religious body was notified several times against Gülen movement activities but “efforts were delayed,” especially in the country’s east and southeast.

According to Erdoğan, Gülen movement used weaknesses in Turkish education system and opened schools and dormitories in the east and southeast part of the country to influence people living there.

“I would like to say that our Diyanet has serious deficiencies on this issue. We made these warning from the squares countless times and conveyed them in our private meetings. It was especially late in the efforts in east and southeast,” he also said.

On July 31, Diyanet Director Mehmet Görmez announced that he had retired, which triggered speculation in the Turkish media.

According to the Hürriyet Daily News, Görmez’s retirement was the result of problems experienced between him and Culture Minister Numan Kurtulmuş.

Sources said Görmez had disagreements with Kurtulmuş, who was previously a deputy prime minister in charge of the Diyanet.

“Görmez worked as though he was the head of an institution directly connected to President Erdoğan for seven years, according to sources. This created problems after Kurtulmuş became [responsible for the] Diyanet, even though it wasn’t an issue with previous deputy ministers [who oversaw] the religious body,” the Hürriyet Daily News said.

Görmez was also targeted in pro-government media for not struggling enough against Gülen movement.

Despite US-based Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen who is the inspiration of Gülen movement, aka Hizmet, rejected any involvement in the coup attempt, Erdoğan and Turkish government launched a widespread witch-hunt against followers of the movement that led to dismissal of more than 146,000 people lost their jobs, detention of over 125,000 detained and arrest of at least 55,000. (

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