BERLIN — Special Correspondent for the Mirror-Spectator Muriel Mirak-Weissbach recently interviewed prize-winning author Dogan Akhanli on the recent coup attempt in Turkey and its devastating purge in the country. Akhanli is a German of Turkish descent who escaped the military dictatorship and received asylum in Germany. A prize-winning author of novels and plays, as well as a human rights activist, he has come under attack for having dealt with the Armenian Genocide in his works.
The interview appears below.
MMW: The Gülen movement is accused of being behind the failed coup attempt of July 15, but Fetullah Gülen and Recep Tayyip Erdogan were close allies for a long time. How can this be?
Akhanli: In 2010, I was in prison in Turkey. At the time I was able to read newspapers in my cell. There was a referendum on the Constitution that had been decided after the military coup of 1980. The Erdogan government wanted to change the constitutional law through a referendum. On September 12, 2010 this occurred through the vote of the people. That evening Erdogan publicly expressed his thanks to Gülen, in front of the press. Gülen at the time was a wanted man, living in exile in the United States. As Prime Minister, Erdogan nonetheless must have found it necessary to thank him. There were very strong ties between Erdogan and Gülen. A complicity. Without the Gülen movement, naturally he could not have taken power. This collaboration fell apart in 2013 and since then a power struggle has raged between the two groups. The political and ideological differences between them are unknown to me. It is a power struggle within the Erdogan-Gülen family.
MMW: Since the coup attempt — which Erdogan called a “gift from heaven” — thousands of Turks have been arrested, from the military, police, judiciary, then school and universities, journalists and so on and so forth. Even actors in the Istanbul theatre, I have heard. Schools, media outlets and other institutions have been shut down. How is this to be understood? Is, or was, the Gülen movement so huge, that one could arrest 18,000 and dismiss tens of thousands? Even AKP members are being pursued, for sympathies with Gülen. If this is true, where will it end?
Akhanli: All schools, institutions, foundations and universities that more or less had anything to do with the Gülen movement have been attacked since the failed coup attempt. No matter whether they were communists, leftist liberals or social democrats, or even AKP members, they have been affected. They were, so to speak, in the wrong place at the wrong time.