Today the Foreign Affairs Committee has released its report The UK’s relations with Turkey. This report is the outcome of an extensive inquiry held by the Committee into recent developments in Turkey with a particular emphasis on UK–Turkey relations. During this inquiry, the Committee invited participants of the Gülen movement to respond to Turkey’s allegations both in writing and at an oral hearing in Parliament. This was the first time that the movement participants were afforded the opportunity to address such questions in a formal and rigorous setting. Gülen movement participants were delighted to oblige both in writing and in person.
While we are determined to focus on local issues and not import overseas problems here, we feel obliged to issue this press release given the concerted effort of the Turkish government and its outposts to target and smear the movement in general and the Dialogue Society in particular, in the UK.
In this respect, we would like to thank the Foreign Affairs Committee for undertaking this inquiry in a methodical and diligent manner and for providing us with the opportunity to respond. We have only ever asked that people hear both sides of the story before arriving at their conclusions, and we are grateful that the Committee did not succumb to Turkey’s pressure to have our voice excluded while amplifying its own. The right of reply relates to both freedom of speech in public and right to a fair trial in court and is something we have been denied far too often.
On the Committee’s findings in general
While we reserve the right to disagree with certain elements of the report, we would like to state that we agree with the overall evaluations, propositions and conclusions of the report. In particular, we welcome the report’s emphasis on the ongoing human rights violations, torture, and inhumane treatment of Turkey’s Kurds and Gülen sympathisers. The plight of Turkey’s Kurds and the oppression in southeast Turkey is especially worrying and the Committee was right to draw attention to these issues in its report.
We welcome that the report concludes that the Turkish government’s response, in the form of mass purge and arrest, following the coup has been disproportionate. The Committee noted that as of January this year 97,679 public servants had been permanently and 37,677 temporarily dismissed from their jobs, while acknowledging that this number is likely to have risen since then. The Committee noted that most of those who have lost their jobs and been subject to a range of other punishments, do not face criminal charges and were not tried by a court before their punishment (para 121). The Committee also noted that, as of January this year, legal action had been taken against 103,000 people and that approximately 41,000 had been remanded in custody. This is on top of the purge that had occurred before Turkey’s failed coup, which the Committee references. The Committee questioned the evidentiary basis of these punitive measures and concluded that its cumulative effect was ‘likely to have catastrophic long-term individual and family consequences and therefore provide the scope for wide ranging and sustained injustice’ (para 118). The Committee also concluded that the State of Emergency, pliant media and politicised judiciary ‘allowed the [Turkish] government to silence a broad spectrum of critics by labelling them as “Gülenists” or “terrorists”’ (para176).
On the Committee’s findings on Turkey’s allegations against Gülen and the movement
On the Turkish government’s allegations that Fethullah Gülen and the Gülen movement masterminded and orchestrated Turkey’s failed coup, a charge Mr Gülen strenuously denies, the Foreign Affairs Committee concluded (para 97):
“Given the brutality of the events of 15 July, the severity of the charges made against the Gülenists, and the scale of the purges of perceived Gülenists that has been justified on this basis, there is a relative lack of hard, publicly–available evidence to prove that the Gülenists as an organisation were responsible for the coup attempt in Turkey. While there is evidence to indicate that some individual Gülenists were involved, it is mostly anecdotal or circumstantial, sometimes premised on information from confessions or informants, and is—so far—inconclusive in relation to the organisation as a whole or its leadership. As we publish this report, nine months after the coup attempt, neither the UK nor Turkish governments can point us to one person who has been found guilty by a court of involvement in the coup attempt, let alone anyone being found guilty with evidence of involvement with Gülenist motives. We also note that, despite Turkey purportedly submitting 80 boxes of ‘evidence’ to the US to achieve the extradition of Fethullah Gülen on the basis that he masterminded the coup attempt, the US judiciary has not yet moved to deport him. “
We would like to state that we agree with the Committee’s conclusions on this matter. The Committee’s findings corroborate the recent statements made by Bruno Kahl, head of Germany’s national intelligence agency (BND) and Devin Nunes, head of the US House Intelligence Committee.
Finally, we note the Committee’s comments that the FCO knows too little about the Gülen movement (see Committee press release). As the Dialogue Society, we have hosted FCO Ministers and UK Ambassadors and have always welcomed any interest in the movement from any government department. Furthermore, we note and sympathise with the Committee’s statement that a ‘lack of transparency pervades some of the core activities of the Gülenists, making it impossible for us to confirm that all of these activities are purely philanthropic’ (paragraph 118). This lack of transparency relates in part to the fact that the movement in Turkey has and is being persecuted. As for the movement in the UK, we have encouraged a number of measures in the past few years to ensure the movement is more visible, accessible and transparent. In 2013, we founded VOICES, a consortium network for Gülen-inspired organisations in the UK. Currently, there is no significant Gülen-inspired activity in the UK that is not represented on this consortium. We will continue our work in this respect and welcome any interest and suggestions by any UK governmental department or body.
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Note to Editors
The Dialogue Society was established in London in 1999 by British Muslims of Turkish background who were inspired by the teachings and example of Fethullah Gülen. It aims to promote dialogue and advance social cohesion by connecting communities through discussion forums, courses, capacity building publications and outreach. The Dialogue Society is not a religious or ethnic organisation, but rather aims to facilitate dialogue on a whole range of social issues, regardless of any particular faith or religion. It stands for democracy, human rights, the non-instrumentalisation of religion in politics, equality and freedom of speech. For more information, see: www.dialoguesociety.org.