In a scathing attack on Australian institutions and nationals of Turkish origin as part of Turkish government campaign of persecution and harassment of critics abroad, Turkish consulate in Melbourne lashed out unwarranted accusations in a scandalous letter sent to members of the Parliament of Victoria.
In his letter dated May 10, 2017, Turkish consul general Mehmet Küçüksakallı asked members to dump a prominent non-governmental organization Australian Intercultural Society (AIS) as a partner in Iftar (fast-breaking meal) Dinner that will be held on Jun 7 and replace it with another organization. He also urged them to not participate into another event called “Colors of the World: An International Festival of Language and Culture”, a festive intercultural event that features songs, poetry, and arts to highlight the culture of living together in peace and harmony.
The scandalous letter that amounts to a blatant interference in Australia’s internal affairs charged that Australian Intercultural Society is linked to a group that allegedly staged a failed coup bid in Turkey on July 15, 2016 and described the AIS as “controversial”.
The Turkish government has pinned the blame for the coup attempt on the Gülen movement, a civic group that was inspired by the US-based Muslim intellectual Fethullah Gülen whose teachings focus on science education, volunteerism, community involvement and interfaith and intercultural dialogue. Turkey’s autocrtaic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has launched a worldwide witch hunt against the movement’s members while jailing some 50,000 people including judges, teachers, journalists, union workers in Turkey on false charges.
Gülen strongly denied Erdoğan’s accusations and called for an international probe into the coup attempt that was described by Turkey’s main opposition party as “controlled coup” by Turkish president himself to set up his critics for a mass persecution. Erdoğan called the coup bid as “gift from God” and purged 150,000 people from government jobs in the last eight months and locked up 237 journalists behind bars.
Contrary to accusations made by Erdoğan and the Turkish government, the Foreign Affairs Committee of the UK Parliament concluded in March that Gülen and the movement he inspired were not behind the failed coup in Turkey. The head of Germany’s Federal Intelligence Service (BND), Bruno Kahl, said Turkey could not convince them that US-based Turkish-Islamic scholar Gülen was behind the failed coup in July. Similarly, Devin Nunes, chairman of United States House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said he has not seen any evidence showing Gülen’s involvement in the putsch in Turkey.
Yet Erdoğan continues to scapegoate the failed coup bid to the Gülen movement, a civic group that was inspired by the US-based Muslim intellectual Fethullah Gülen whose teachings focus on science education, volunteerism, community involvement and interfaith and intercultural dialogue. The main reason why the movement is targeted by Erdoğan is that Gülen has been a vocal critic of Erdoğan on pervasive corruption in the government and Turkish President’s support for armed radical Jihadists in Syria.
A report published by German Der Spiegel magazine in March revealed details of Turkey’s spying activities on people linked with the Gülen movement around the world.
Evaluating diplomatic cables containing information collected by Turkish diplomatic missions in 35 countries, Der Spiegel wrote: “Turkish embassies in Nigeria, Australia, Kenya and Saudi Arabia have all reported on the schools in those countries they believe to be affiliated with the Gülen movement. They document the organizations in which Gülen supporters are active and the media they write for. They also outline the relationships of the alleged supporters to each country’s government.”
It was also revealed that imams from Turkey’s Religious Affairs Directorate (Diyanet) spied on people sympathetic to Gülen and the movement he inspired. In fact, Salih Arslan, a member of the board of the Ankara-funded Süleymaniye mosque in the Australian city of Perth, was revealed to have incited worshipers to spy on followers of the Gülen movement and affiliated institutions, including schools.
Arslan is heard asking people to report “every kind of information” regarding Gülen movement activities in Australia to Turkish consulates, in video footage captured at the Süleymaniye mosque. Consulates should even be informed of who buys advertising in movement-affiliated newspapers, Arslan underlined.
May 12, 2017