Pro-Erdoğan Turks’ violence targeting members of Gülen movement reaches Belgium

İbrahim Anaz

Pro-Erdoğan Turks’ violence targeting the members of the Gülen movement over a controversial military coup attempt on July 15, 2016 has reached Europe, with İbrahim Anaz, a resident of Belgium of Turkish descent, saying he fell victim to a politically motivated knife attack by his niece’s husband, according to a report by Euronews on Wednesday.

Speaking to Euronews, 35-year-old Anaz, who is general secretary of the Federation of  Aktiv Businessmen’s Associations in Belgium, which is affiliated with the Gülen movement, said his niece’s husband views him as a terrorist.

The Turkish government led by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has jailed tens of thousands of people as part of its massive post-coup witch hunt targeting alleged members of the Gülen movement across Turkey, while the notorious National Intelligence Organization (MİT) has pursued them abroad. Moreover, disputes have erupted between family members in Turkey, with instances reported of relatives turning on each other.

The dispute in Belgium, Anaz said, arose when he warned his niece about traveling to Turkey in July 2017. He said his niece is a former teacher at a school affiliated with the Gülen movement and that he phoned his niece to warn her that she might be in danger while vacationing in Turkey.

Anaz said he arrived at his niece’s house and that the discussion turned violent. After the argument escalated between Anaz and his niece’s husband, Anaz had to leave the house.

Anaz claimed that his niece’s husband followed him out, yelling that he would kill him in the middle of the street. Then he stabbed Anaz in the back with a fruit knife. “I tried to defend myself,” he told Euronews. “The first swing came toward my neck. I was a hair away from death.”

Anaz said he was wounded in his thumb and both arms. “When the place turned into a puddle of blood, he stopped for a moment and I found an escape.” He went to an emergency room, Euronews wrote.

His attorney, Walter Van Steenbrugge, called it a politically motivated crime and is seeking stiffer penalties from a Belgian court. Anaz’s niece, meanwhile, has rejected the incident as political and instead called it a “family dispute.”

Hundreds of thousands of people in Turkey have been the subject of legal proceedings in the last two years on charges of membership in the Gülen movement since a coup attempt on July 15, 2016, a Turkish Justice Ministry official told a symposium on July 19, 2018.

“Legal proceedings have been carried out against 445,000 members of this organization,” Turkey’s pro-government Islamist news agency İLKHA quoted Turkish Justice Ministry Deputy Undersecretary Ömer Faruk Aydıner as saying.

Turkey survived a controversial military coup attempt on July 15, 2016, that killed 249 people. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.

Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the movement, strongly denied having any role in the failed coup and called for an international investigation into it, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.

Turkey has suspended or dismissed about 170,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants since July 15, 2016. On December 13, 2017, the Justice Ministry announced that 169,013 people have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.

Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu announced on April 18, 2018, that the Turkish government had jailed 77,081 people between July 15, 2016, and April 11, 2018, over alleged links to the Gülen movement. (SCF with Ahval)

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