Erdogan’s Long Arm: The Case of Senegal

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Turkey has expanded its witch hunt against critics to the West African nation of Senegal, specifically targeting members of the Gülen movement, using embassy and government-affiliated NGOs and operatives, a report released by the Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) has revealed.

The report, drawn from interviews and witness accounts, exposes how the current government in Turkey under an oppressive leadership has intensified direct and indirect pressure on Senegal to shut down schools linked to the movement and offered economic and financial incentives to secure political goals in the West African nation. 

“It is a shame that the Senegalese government caved to the pressure exerted by the Erdoğan regime and helped the Turkish government victimize innocent people who have been living in Senegal for years and contributing to its development, especially in the education sector,” said Abdullah Bozkurt, the president of SCF.

Schools affiliated with the Gülen movement were handed over to the Turkish government-owned Maarif Foundation, which is run by controversial Islamist figures. The foundation is one of the tools President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan uses to project his image as the leader of all Muslims in the world and his hopes to raise a young generation of Muslims who will be loyal to his rule beyond Turkish borders.  

“The Turkish government has also engaged in wide-scale spying, intelligence gathering and profiling of critics in Senegal, almost with impunity,” Bozkurt also underlined. 

Although critics from all walks of life including Kurds and Alevis have been targeted in general in this stigmatizing effort by the Turkish government, members of a civic group called Hizmet (popularly known as the Gülen movement), inspired by US-based Turkish Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, have borne the brunt of the government’s witch hunt.

Gülen leads a global movement that focuses on science education, volunteerism, community involvement, social work and interfaith and intercultural dialogue.

This persecution abroad is personally approved by Turkish President Erdoğan, who stated that no country in the world will be safe for members of the Gülen movement, claimed they do not have the right to life and vowed to pursue them wherever they are. His propagandists have even suggested assassinating and abducting critics abroad and have put a bounty on their heads.

The entire government apparatus and Turkish missions abroad have been engaged in systematic efforts against the Gülen movement in more than 150 nations, and Turkish intelligence managed to abduct over 100 members of the Gülen movement, mostly teachers and businesspeople, from various countries in clear violation of international law. 

Turkish intelligence uses Turkish embassies and consulates as a cover and a hub for activities such as profiling harassment, denial of consular services, confiscation of passports, threats, kidnapping, boycotts, insults, slander and unlawful information gathering and spying on regime critics.

The illegal renditions and abductions have recently been in the headlines of major media outlets in Europe, and investigative journalists from multiple countries have exposed black sites where kidnapped critics of the Erdoğan regime are exposed to torture and ill-treatment.

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