The restructuring of Turkey

Filling the gap left by Gulen

The crushing of the Islamic Gulen movement has left a gaping void in Turkey that other organisations are now rushing to fill, with people jostling for the tens of thousands of now-vacant jobs. Conservative foundations and religious orders stand to benefit most from the sell-off. By Ulrich von Schwerin

With schools seized, residential homes nationalised, newspapers closed and tens of thousands of supporters behind bars, things do not look good for the movement led by the Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen, which is being held responsible for the failed military coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan over a year ago. This fraternity, which was once so powerful in Turkey that it was simply known as the cemaat (Islamic community or group), has now been branded a terrorist organisation and is banned. Its structures have been smashed, its assets seized and its leaders have either been imprisoned, fled the country, or have had warrants issued against them.

What remains is a void that other organisations are now rushing to fill. According to Turkish sociologist Mehmet Ali Caliskan, since the smashing of the Gulen movement in Turkey and the banishment of its supporters from the civil service, a race to fill empty posts and grab seized resources has begun. Caliskan says it is still impossible to say how it will all end. Both the nationalists and a range of conservative Islamic fraternities, he says, hope to bring state institutions completely under their control. It is a "very unstable and confusing situation" that cannot last, says Caliskan.

On the one hand, this power struggle is about filling the posts that became available when Gulen supporters were expelled from the civil service. More than 140,000 employees in administrations, the judiciary, the military and the education sector have been relieved of their posts by emergency decree since the failed coup attempt. The government accuses most of these former employees of having links to the Gulen movement. Others are accused of belonging to the PKK guerrillas or other armed, banned groups.

Turkish police round up suspected Gulen supporters (photo: picture-alliance/AP Photo/O. Duzgun)
Out with the old: following the events of 15 July 2016, Recep Tayyip Erdogan was quick to accuse his former ally Fethullah Gulen of masterminding the failed coup. In a massive purge of the civil service, more than 140,000 employees, accused either of being Gulenists, PKK sympathisers or supporters of other banned organisations, lost their jobs

A redistribution of assets

On the other hand, it is about the distribution of the Gulen movement's assets that have been seized since the attempted coup. In the immediate aftermath of the failed coup, 1,043 schools, 1,229 associations and foundations, 35 hospitals and 15 universities were closed by decree. The newspaper "Zaman" had already been taken over by the state. By July 2017, almost 1,000 companies had been seized, including major companies such as Boydak and Koza-Ipek as well as Bank Asya, which has close links to Gulen.

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