The West has not learned from the mistakes it made during Turkey's turmoil on the night of the failed coup.

On the night of July 15, Turkish society was shocked to witness a coup attempt by the FETO terrorist organisation. 

With flags in their hands, millions of civilians gathered on the streets, blocked the putschists and successfully protected the will of the people against rifles, tanks, helicopters and fighter jets. 

While Turkey was in turmoil at that night, Western officials were so silent that every Turkish citizen heard them. 

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel admitted they were late to respond to the coup attempt, and their country failed to show sufficient solidarity with the Turkish people and that it was a mistake. 

However, it was not only on July 15, but also what has happened since then which still damages the perception of the West in Turkey. Many Western actors still haven‘t learned from their mistake that night, and are trying to instrumentalise the cult of Gulen to their own political benefit. 

The silence in the West

While the attempted coup was underway in Turkey, Western officials were reluctant to condemn the undemocratic, brutal and unlawful actions. On the contrary, they waited to see the outcome of the coup attempt. 

Those who spoke about the coup attempt, like US Secretary of State John Kerry stated that he hoped for peace, stability and continuity in Turkey. Only when it became clear that the coup attempt failed, the US government sided with the “democratically-elected, civilian government of Turkey."

While Turkish society was still in shock, the US and the EU did not express solidarity but instead warned Turkey to maintain judicial standards. In Turkey, the silence followed by these kinds of statements from all across Western capitals only fuelled the perception in Turkey that its western allies were supportive of the FETO members' coup attempt. 

News coverage on the night that Erdogan had fled the country and sought asylum in Germany, comments by former CIA officials like Bob Baer that the putschists need to take control over the Turkish media broadcaster CNN Turk, or the FOX News coverage that the coup has to be successful so that the fight against Daesh can be successful were also very telling for Turkish society - especially, when only a month and 9 days later, Turkey launched a cross-border military operation against Daesh. 

The trauma multiplied when the western media chose to cover the fate of persecuted putschists instead of the Turkish civilians who were killed on that same night. While the Turkish people were mourning, the western media was more worried about those who tried to violently overthrow a democratically elected government. 

Most notably, despite all of the evidence and judicial processes in Turkey, the Western media still does not reference the coup attempt as one committed by Gulen and the FETO terror organisation. It still refers to it as “the coup attempt which Erdogan blames on the movement led by US-based Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen”. 

The evidence for who was behind 9/11 in the US is more scant, yet no reputable media organisation would dream of writing “the terror attack that George W Bush blames on Al Qaeda." It is always stated as fact that Al Qaeda was responsible.

American and European protection for Gulen and his cult

Since the failed coup attempt, asylum applications by Turkish citizens in Europe skyrocketed. In 2017, 15,500 Turkish citizens applied for asylum in the EU and 23,000 applied the following year. 

Most of them applied in Germany. Prior to 2016, Germany used to get 1,800 applications from Turkish citizens per year. In 2016, it was 5,742, in 2017 it was 8,483, in 2018 it was 10,655 and in 2019 it was 11,423. 

However, the most shocking detail lies in another number: while 74.6 percent of just Turkish asylum applicants were accepted, 14.5 percent of applications for those who identified themselves as “Kurds” were accepted. This high discrepancy is grounded in the willingness of the German institutions to provide FETO members protection. 

As is widely known, FETO members had infiltrated the structure of the Turkish state. Over 1,000 applicants in the same period were diplomatic or service passport holders. 

The protection of FETO members is not only limited to granting asylum, but also in providing financial aid or the denial of legal investigations into the activities of the organisation.

For instance, projects and schools run by FETO are still partially or fully funded by the taxpayers of their respective countries, and despite Turkish warnings about money laundering and other forms of criminal activities, investigations into Gulen and his network of schools and charters have not been initiated. 

The most prevalent form of protection has been showcased by the US in directly harbouring the leader of the sect, denying his extradition to Turkey and not starting an American investigation against the man behind the coup in Turkey.

The instrumentalisation of FETO against Turkey

In the first period after the coup, asylum seekers were of high value for intelligence agencies in Western states. This was especially true for those with prominent positions in the Turkish state or those with insider knowledge about the Turkish state, its society, its finance or politics due to their information-gathering within the Gulen cult to undermine the Turkish state. 

However, due to the reshuffle of Turkish institutions and the reorganisation of the Turkish state into a presidential system, the value of FETO members from an intelligence perspective has withered. 

Nevertheless, the instrumentalisation of FETO members by Western states has not ended. Loyalists to Gulen cult, mostly well educated, have become a valuable proxy for anti-Turkish media coverage. Old FETO members who themselves were reportedly engaged, or propagated some of the worst human rights violations committed in Turkey, have become mouthpieces against Turkey under a false banner of freedom, democracy and human rights. 

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