This is certainly not the best of times for us. We have experienced one too many distractions in recent times. And the last is the coup attempt by a section of the Turkish Military. On that day, I had a long day at work, and all I wanted was to retire home to the comfort of my family and get some well-deserved rest. But I was wrong. By 10.30pm, my phone began buzzing, calls from everywhere. I was confused and a bit reluctant to take the calls not until I read a message from an editor of one of the newspapers in Nigeria to see the breaking news on CNN.
I jolted from my exhaustion and tuned to CNN and my world crashed! A coup attempt has taken place in Turkey! I screamed so loud that my wife who equally had a longer day and was already asleep rushed out of the bedroom to the living room where I was. I was sobbing and could not hold back myself. All I could muster was “a coup, a coup” she didn’t get the import of my utterances until her gaze caught the headlines on the television set. And she was distraught.
I just could not come to terms with the stark reality facing me. My phone was still buzzing from friends and colleagues especially in the media. I recall that an editor in one of the newspapers called to congratulate me that at last President Erdogan have been removed from office. I was dazed at such attitude, and I was quick to say “no, there is no going back from democracy in Turkey. The worst of democracy is better than the best of military control.” And that has been my stand as well as that of the Hizmet movement. We firmly condemned the coup in its entirety and wished the news making the rounds could be a huge joke. But I was wrong because little did I know that I was in for a bigger shock. President Erdogan has accused respected Islamic scholar and inspirer of the Hizmet movement Fetullah Gulen as behind the coup attempt.
That was when I knew something sinister was in the pipeline. And I feared for participants of the Hizmet Movement in Turkey and other places. And true to my fears, the government clamp-down on the Hizmet movement has been phenomenal as well as despicable. So much so that in Turkey as I write, reports have it that members of the Hizmet movement are chastised and humiliated at the slightest opportunity. In restaurants and public places, there are inscriptions such as “ Gulenists are not welcome here” This is quite sad and the highpoint of the Erdogan authoritarian regime in Turkey.
But we participants of the Hizmet movement are consoled by the fact that the world is watching the untold hardship and despicable manner participants of the Hizmet movement are being subjected to by the Turkish government. It is not enough to accuse someone, the question is do you have evidence to back up such claims? Anyone who knows Fethulan Gulen or has interacted with partcipants of the Hizmet movement, they know that what we radiate at every point in time is dialogue, love, tolerance and peaceful coexistence. It is worthy of note that Fethullah Gulen has said that he is ready to be investigated by an international organization, and he would accept the outcome of such investigation. He indeed within minutes of the reported coup issued a statement condemning the coup in its entirety. Part of his statement reads: I condemn in strongest terms, the attempted military coup in Turkey. Government should be won through a process of free and fair elections, not force. I pray to God for Turkey, Turkish citizens, and for all those currently in Turkey that this situation is resolved peacefully and quickly”
Those were the words of Fethullah Gulen. And being who he is, he meant every word. There is also another school of thought that posits that the coup might have been staged by the Erdogan government to clamp down on the Hizmet movement and use the opportunity to amend the Turkish constitution. Whatever is the case, a coup is a coup, and I can vouch with the last drop of my blood that Fethullah Gulen can never be associated with violence or military interference with democratic institutions.
As I write 15,200 education ministry officials have sacked, 21,000 teachers have had their licenses revoked, 1,577 university deans have been asked to resign, 1,500 finance ministry staff have been fired, 393 social policy ministry staff have been dismissed, 100 intelligence officials have been suspended and many more.
Also, 257 people working at the office of the prime minister were dismissed, and the Directorate of Religious Affairs announced it had sacked 492 staff including clerics, preachers, and religious teachers. One might be tempted to ask what is happening. Why impose a state of emergency and relieve thousands of Turkish citizens of their jobs for a supposed coup that was staged by a fraction of the Military?
We as participants of the Hizmet movement in Nigeria strongly condemned the coup attempt, and to this end, we held an extensive press conference where we stated our stance on the recent development in Turkey. We also highlighted the activities of the Hizmet movement in Nigeria. It must also be said that just like our activities in Nigeria through UFUK Dialogue Initiative is known to support dialogue, love, tolerance and peaceful coexistence, the general philosophy of the Hizmet movement is known to be geared towards the aforementioned. we are appalled by the unfounded allegations by President Erdogan for we can never be associated with violence or military interference with democracy.