Turkish media is reporting that several study abroad / work & travel agencies in Turkey are linked to the Fethullah Gulen movement – known in Turkey as the Fetullah Gulen Terrorist Organisation (‘FETO’) – which is accused of masterminding last July’s attempted coup against the government of Tayyip Erdoğan.
Articles in the Daily Sabah and Yeni Şafak newspapers claim that a Ministry of Foreign Affairs report has been sent to Turkish universities warning them that such programs had been used to financially assist FETO and boost recruitment to the organisation.
The 4 agencies named in the today’s Turkish press are said to dominate the sector for work & travel, accounting for more than half the visas obtained. The articles allege that Armada Grandee, StudyZone, United Towers and Academix were making $10 million per year from the business, which relied on close links to private universities owned by or linked to Fetullah Gulen.
The articles conclude that some of the owners of these agencies fled abroad following the July 15 coup attempt last year.
There has been widespread speculation and nervousness in the sector since the attempted coup and ensuing government crackdown. Over the years some agencies in this highly competitive market have attempted to leverage personal, political, religious and professional links to increase student numbers, as would be usual anywhere. In Turkey, however, a new normal is being created in the wake of the coup attempt, when 265 people died and over 2000 were injured.
The events of July 15 2016 are being remembered this weekend, with the date assuming the status of a symbolic national holiday for a new Turkish Republic that is steadily replacing the secular Republic founded by Kemal Ataturk in 1923.
A McCarthyistic purge of Gulenist supporters has decimated education, the media, judiciary and the military, as the government attempts to disentangle itself from a network that had, until 2012, been a powerful ally of the ruling AK Party.
According to a July 13th statement from the Turkish Justice Ministry:
- 50,510 people have been arrested for alleged links to FETO, with 169,013 suspected of links but yet to be charged, and 8087 on the run.
- More than 130,000 people have lost their jobs in the government’s post-coup purge of state institutions, and over 5000 academics have been sacked
- The judiciary has lost 4000 members since the attempted coup, while 2280 judges and prosecutors have been arrested.
Accusations of links to Gulen can and do lead to sackings, arrests, imprisonments and exile, often with scant evidence and little hope for justice. Such stories have become the everyday content of news stories in Turkish and international press. Turkish opposition MP’s have also been imprisoned for ‘treason’ or ‘spying’.
Last weekend, a ‘Justice’ (Adalet) march from Ankara to Istanbul terminated with a million+ rally in Maltepe, led by CHP opposition leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, protesting against injustice and the damage done to democracy by the counter-coup and concentration of power in the President’s hands.
On Saturday evening, a ‘National Unity Walk’ will cross the 1st Bosphorus Bridge – now named July 15 Martyrs Bridge’ – to be followed by a ceremony of prayers, readings and a speech by Tayyip Erdoğan.