Turkey’s Crackdown on the Gülen Movement: 2022 in Review

The Gülen movement is a worldwide civic initiative rooted in the spiritual and humanistic tradition of Islam and inspired by the ideas of Fethullah Gülen, a Muslim cleric resident in the US. The bases of the movement are diverse service projects that are initiated, funded and conducted by people who are motivated by Gülen’s humanitarian discourse.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the movement 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 locked up thousands, including many prosecutors, judges and police officers involved in the investigations.

Some of the claims that were part of the corruption investigations were later substantiated in New York federal court where Turkish banker Mehmet Hakan Atilla was sentenced to 32 months for conspiring to violate US sanctions on Iran and other offenses.

Erdoğan 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.

Following the failed coup, the Turkish government carried out a massive purge of state institutions under the pretext of an anti-coup fight. More than 130,000 public servants, including 4,156 judges and prosecutors, as well as 24,706 members of the armed forces were summarily removed from their jobs for alleged membership in or relationships with “terrorist organizations” by emergency decree-laws subject to neither judicial nor parliamentary scrutiny.

Such daily activities as having an account at or depositing money in a Gülen movement-affiliated bank, working at any institution linked to the movement or subscribing to certain newspapers and magazines were accepted as benchmarks for identifying and arresting alleged members of the movement.

According to Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ, a total of 117,208 people have been convicted while more than 600,000 have been the subject of investigation in Turkey due to alleged links to the Gülen movement since the coup attempt.

Ali Babacan, leader of the opposition Democracy and Progress Party (DEVA) and a former heavyweight of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), has claimed that President Erdoğan ordered officials to “show no mercy” in the government crackdown following the failed coup and to not care about separating the guilty from the innocent.

During the year Erdoğan continued to relentlessly pursue anyone with alleged links with the movement. They have been targets of hate speech, hate crimes, unlawful prosecution, torture and abductions, among other serious human rights violations.

Here are some of the most important news from 2022 concerning Erdoğan’s crackdown on the Gülen movement:

Decisions and reports by international organizations and foreign governments

UN committee faulted Turkey in case of teacher who died in custody after arrest over Gülen links

The United Nations Human Rights Committee released its decision concerning an application submitted on behalf of a teacher who was allegedly tortured in police custody and subsequently died during a post-coup purge in August 2016, saying the state violated his rights and the rights of his family under several articles of the UN’s International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). More..

Turkey’s post-coup detention of judges and prosecutors was unlawful: ECtHR

In September, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruled that the pretrial detention of 230 judges and prosecutors after a failed 2016 coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was unlawful, holding that Turkey is to pay 5,000 euros in non-pecuniary damages to every applicant. More..

In October, the ECtHR ruled that Turkey violated the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) by detaining 167 judges and prosecutors after the failed coup attempt. More..

In December, the Strasbourg court ruled that Turkey violated the ECHR by detaining 82 judges and prosecutors after the coup attempt in 2016, holding that Turkish government is to pay each applicant 5,000 euros in non-pecuniary damages. More

UN committee found rights violations in case of teacher arrested over Gülen links, calls for her release

The UN Human Rights Committee has called on Turkey to release a teacher who was arrested in 2018 over alleged links to a faith-based group and pay her damages since the arrest violated her rights under several articles of the UN’s ICCPR. More..

UN committee sought further information from Turkey in case of missing Yusuf Bilge Tunç

The UN Human Rights Committee requested further information from Turkey in the case of former civil servant Yusuf Bilge Tunç, who has been missing since August 2019 and is believed to have been abducted by Turkish intelligence. More..

However, the ECtHR has rejected an application claiming that Turkish authorities failed to carry out an effective investigation into the case of Tunç. More…

ILO questioned post-coup dismissals of union members, lack of reinstatement to jobs

The International Labour Organization’s (ILO) Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations said in a recent report that it notes with concern the high number of rejections by a body established in Turkey after a failed coup to investigate appeals against the dismissal of some 130,000 civil servants by emergency decrees, stating that it has requested information from the Turkish government about the trade union members whose cases were rejected. More..

Turkey violated prisoners’ rights by not granting visits for schoolchildren on weekends: ECtHR

The ECtHR ruled that Turkish authorities violated the ECHR by not allowing prison visits on weekends as weekday visits conflicted with children’s school schedule and interfered with prisoners’ family life, deciding that Turkey was to pay each of the 19 applicants 1,500 euros in non-pecuniary damages. More..

ECtHR ruled Turkey violated prisoners’ rights by uploading their correspondence to judicial network server

The ECtHR has ruled that Turkey violated the right to respect for private life of 14 inmates by uploading their incoming and outgoing correspondence onto the National Judicial Network Server (Ulusal Yargı Ağı Bilişim Sistemi or UYAP). More..

Top Swedish court refused to extradite Gülen-linked former principal to Turkey

The Supreme Court of Sweden refused Turkey’s request to extradite a former principal who used to work at a school affiliated with the Gülen movement in Afghanistan on the grounds that his actions do not constitute any elements of a crime under Swedish law. More..

Brazilian court refused to extradite Gülen-linked businessman to Turkey

Brazil’s Supreme Court rejected an extradition request from Turkey for a businessman due to his links to the movement, saying there is no guarantee the businessman will receive a fair trial if he is extradited. More..

Belgian law firm to take alleged crimes against humanity by Turkish officials to ICC

Johan Vande Lanotte, a legal counsel from the Belgian-based law firm Van Steenbrugge Advocaten (VSA) and a professor of law at the University of Ghent, told Belgian media that lawyers from VSA are going to take evidence of crimes against humanity perpetrated by Turkish state officials to the International Criminal Court (ICC). More..

Ongoing purge

1.7 mln investigations launched in Turkey on terrorism allegations over past 5 years

More than 1.7 million investigations were launched into people in Turkey on allegations of membership in an armed terrorist organization between 2016 and 2021, opposition lawmaker Mustafa Yeneroğlu said, citing Justice Ministry data. More..

24,706 expelled from Turkish military since coup attempt: minister

Turkey’s defense minister has announced that 24,706 personnel from the Turkish Armed Forces have been expelled over Gülen links since the failed coup. More..

Number of Gülen followers in İstanbul prison surpassed all others jailed on terrorism charges

The number of inmates in İstanbul’s notorious Marmara Prison who are imprisoned on alleged links to the Gülen movement exceeds all other inmates in the prison who are jailed pending trial or convicted on terrorism charges.

The name of the former Silivri Prison, where mostly political prisoners are jailed, was recently changed to Marmara Prison. More..

662 employees expelled from foreign ministry in post-coup purge: minister

Turkey has seen the expulsion of 662 personnel from its foreign ministry as part of a purge launched by the government in the aftermath of the failed coup. More..

37 detained across Turkey for helping families of jailed Gülen followers

Thirty-seven people detained in a Bartın-based operation that was also conducted in Karabük, İstanbul and Isparta provinces on terrorism charges for helping the families of people jailed over alleged links to the Gülen movement. More..

 Dismissed police officer reinstated to job 3 years after death

Meral Barut, 35, a former police officer who was fired in a wide-ranging purge in the aftermath of the coup attempt and died of cancer in 2019 has been reinstated to her job in May. More..

Turkey’s top court upheld sentences given to 60 former cadets on coup charges

Turkey’s top appeals court has upheld life sentences handed down to 60 former military cadets who were jailed following the failed coup and convicted on coup charges. More..

Court reporters reluctant to cover Gülen-linked trials, media ombudsman said

Faruk Bildirici, a well-known media ombudsman in Turkey, claimed that Turkish reporters have been reluctant to regularly cover trials of alleged members of the Gülen movement. More..

Turkish authorities denied financial assistance to severely disabled teenager due to father’s links to Gülen movement

Turkish authorities denied a severely disabled 15-year-old autistic teenager disability benefits because his father was arrested for alleged links to the Gülen movement. Yakup Ali Çetin suffers from epileptic seizures and hypotonia, a degenerative muscle disease, in addition to autism. More..

Ankara University used profiling files from MİT to justify post-coup purge of academics

Ankara University, where more than 100 academics were fired by government decrees since 2016, has been using profiling documents received from Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization to justify the academic purges in court. More..

Hate speech and discrimination

Turkey’s vice president called purge victims ‘terrorists’

Vice President Fuat Oktay and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan

Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay called the victims of a massive purge of state institutions “terrorists,” accusing opposition parties of having plans for the reinstatement of former civil servants who were removed from their jobs following the coup attempt. More..

“May I ask who these people are? They are terrorists. Opposition parties should tell people that they will reinstate these terrorists to state institutions,” Oktay said in an interview with the private TV channel A Haber.

Mayor faced probe for employing post-coup victim at municipal company

An opposition party mayor in western Turkey faced an investigation for employing a former judge who was fired in the aftermath of the failed coup at a company owned by the municipality. More..

Turkish expatriate in Germany attacked over Gülen links in apparent hate crime

A Turkish man who has been residing in Germany for 41 years was attacked in an apparent hate crime by the Turkish owner of a kebab shop in Kamen, North Rhine-Westphalia, due to his links to the Gülen movement. More..

Victim of Turkey’s post-coup purge said she was insulted and subjected to physical violence by neighbors

Emine Özdemir Kara, a former public servant who was dismissed by a government decree after the coup attempt, said she was subjected to insults and physical violence by her neighbors in Eskişehir province. “There was one incident where our neighbor forced herself into our home and pushed me onto the couch. She hit me and called me a dirty traitor,” said Kara. More..

Torture and inhuman treatment

Detainees subjected to torture in Ankara police custody

People who were detained in January due to alleged links to the Gülen movement were subjected to torture at a police detention center in Ankara. Some of the detainees were beaten and forced to sign false confessions while in police custody. More..

Lawyers’ report on torture in police custody not published, causes rift in bar association

A report by lawyers from the Ankara Bar Association’s human rights committee on allegations of torture made by detainees held at a police detention center has not been published in 2022, prompting a rift between the rapporteurs and the bar administration. More..

13 students subjected to mistreatment in Bursa police custody

Thirteen students who were detained due to alleged links to the Gülen movement were allegedly subjected to mistreatment while in police custody in the western province of Bursa. The detainees, who were interrogated at the Bursa Police Department for four days without any evidence supporting the claims against them, were allegedly beaten for refusing to accept the accusation. More..

Former academic said he was brutally tortured at Ankara Police Department

Muhammed Savaş Bayındır, a former academic in the law faculty at Ankara’s Gazi University, in a public letter said he was brutally tortured at the Ankara Police Department after being detained in the post-coup purge.

He said he was taken to a filthy back room where he was beaten with a baton. Bayındır recalled he was sprayed with water, stripped and further beaten. “In addition to the physical pain, I felt extremely humiliated,” he said. More..

Ankara Bar filed complaint on allegations of torture at police department

The Ankara Bar Association announced that they filed a complaint against the Ankara Police Department based on nine allegations of torture made by detainees held at detention centers in February and March. More..

Mother and daughter allegedly subjected to strip-search in Amasya prison while visiting family member

The mother of an underage girl said she and her daughter were subjected to a strip-search on Friday while visiting her husband in Amasya E-Type Prison. “The guards shouted at us to remove our underwear, after which they started touching our genitals,” woman said. More..

Former teacher said she was strip-searched in prison and punished for revealing it in letter

Nagehan Yüksel, a former teacher at a religious high school who was convicted of terrorist organization membership due to her links to the movement, has been given a disciplinary punishment for revealing in a letter to an opposition lawmaker that she had been subjected to a strip-search in prison.

 “Can you tell the people who say ‘There are no strip-searches in Turkish prisons’ that I was strip-searched by two officers at Eskişehir Prison at 5:45 p.m. on 04.08.2022. When they were going to search me, I asked them if this was a strip-search, and they replied, ‘Yes, this is a strip search.’ I knew the answer to the question, but I wanted it confirmed by them,” she said in her letter. More..

Turkish Prison administration threatened revocation of parole eligibility if sick inmate refuses to withdraw mistreatment complaints

A sick inmate in Afyonkarahisar T-type Prison, notorious for mistreating prisoners, was told to withdraw complaints of mistreatment if he wanted to be released on parole.

Lütfi Koç, who suffers from a brain tumor, was severely beaten by prison guards. He sent a letter to the Turkish Parliament’s Human Rights Committee detailing the incident. The prison administration told Koç that his “good behavior report” would be revoked if he did not withdraw his complaint. More..

Children of the purge: death, disease and separation

Teen took own life over father’s imprisonment in post-coup crackdown

Bahadır Odabaşı, a 16-year-old teenager, died in January by suicide in Turkey’s eastern Diyarbakır province as a result of depression caused by the situation of his father, Nurettin Odabaşı, a former teacher who was fired from his job by an emergency decree and arrested on terror-related charges due to his alleged links to the Gülen movement. More..

11-year-old girl with Down syndrome deteriorated after arrest of her mother on Gülen links

Ayşe Asude Gök, an 11-year-old girl with Down syndrome, stopped interacting with her caregivers after her mother was arrested in March to serve a sentence for conviction of links to the Gülen movement. More..

4-year-old started seeing psychologist after mother’s arrest

Rana Uzunkaya, 4-year-old daughter of a woman who was arrested for alleged links to the Gülen movement, has started to receive psychological help after developing anxiety and social problems. More..

Mother of child suffering from bone cancer serving sentence on conviction of Gülen links

Gülten Sayın, the mother of 6-year-old Yusuf Kerim Sayın, who is suffering from a type of bone cancer, was arrested in December to serve a prison sentence on charges of links to the Gülen movement. More.. 

Authorities refused to release critically ill mother of 3 arrested for Gülen links