Senior AKP figure targets Gülen movement supporters in hate speech

Mücahit Birinci, a member of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party’s 50-seat Central Decision and Executive Board (MKYK), targeted supporters of the faith-based Gülen movement during a news show on Saturday, calling them demons and promising to make life unbearable for them everywhere in the world.

“We as the patriots … will make life unbearable for FETÖ terrorists and their extensions that are still active in Turkey wherever they are living around the world and whatever they are doing,” Birinci said. “Our children will be living in this country. I don’t want my children to live in this country together with these demons.”

FETÖ is a derogatory acronym used by the government to label the Gülen movement as a terrorist organization. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen movement, a faith-based group inspired by Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen, since the corruption investigations of December 17-25, 2013, which implicated then-Prime Minister Erdoğan, his family members and his inner circle.

Dismissing the investigations as a Gülenist coup and conspiracy against his government, Erdoğan designated the movement as a terrorist organization and began to target its members. He intensified the crackdown on the movement following a coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that he accused Gülen of masterminding. Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the abortive putsch or any terrorist activity.

Hate speech against Gülen movement supporters has been widespread in Turkey since the corruption investigations of December 2013. Erdoğan himself used such words as “terrorists,” “traitors,” “vampires,” “leeches,” “tumor” and “virus” to refer to them. He in fact developed a unique vocabulary of 240 hateful slurs and insults that singled out the Gülen movement and eventually declared that the followers of the movement “have no right to life.”

Erdoğan’s followers have used hate speech frequently in various mediums including TV programs. Muttalip Kutluk Özgüven, a professor of communications, said followers of the Gülen movement who were not convicted by the courts should be sent to rehabilitation camps and subjected to psychological treatment.

“Their bodies do not belong to them. They have to serve Turkey’s interests. So I can’t accept these people being against the state. We have not used psychological methods on them,” he said in remarks that attracted widespread criticism on social media.

According to a statement from Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu on February 20, a total of 622,646 people have been the subject of investigation and 301,932 have been detained, while 96,000 others have been jailed due to alleged links to the Gülen movement since the failed coup. The minister said there are currently 25,467 people in Turkey’s prisons who were jailed on alleged links to the movement.

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