Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told his U.S. counterpart Donald Trump that members of the Gülen movement, blamed by Ankara for organising the failed 2016 coup, have been involved in recent protests in the United States, the Hürriyet columnist Hande Fırat said.
Erdoğan told Trump in a June 8 phone call that the Gülen movement had taken the lead in protests in the United States through social media, Fırat said – without providing any sourcing or explaining how she knows this.
Fırat also repeated claims made by the Turkish government and its allies in the media that the Gülen movement financially supported Trump’s 2016 presidential opponent Hillary Clinton and is disturbed by the close relationship between Erdoğan and Trump.
The United States has seen nationwide protests against racism and police brutality since the killing of George Floyd, an African-American man, by police in May.
Earlier this month, Turkish Presidential Communications Director Fahrettin Altun told U.S. ambassador to Ankara David Satterfield that the Gülen movement acted alongside the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Antifa movement, a loosely organised collection of anti-fascist activists, in Syria as well as in encouraging violence during protests in the United States.
When the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power in 2002, it joined forces with the movement led by the Turkish U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gülen, which Turkey’s secularists accused of infiltrating state institutions, particularly the judiciary, police, and military to expand its power.
But relations between the AKP and the Gülen movement started to deteriorate publicly from 2013, when prosecutors allegedly linked to the Gülen movement brought corruption charges against Erdoğan’s entourage and attempted to have some of his close allies jailed.
Following the failed coup in 2016, Ankara sacked some 150,000 public employees and arrested more than 34,000 people over alleged ties to the Gülen movement.
The Turkish government says the crackdown is necessary to root out the banned group and to eradicate its once considerable influence in Turkey. Critics argue that Erdoğan has used the failed coup attempt as a pretext to quash all kinds of dissent, pointing to the flimsy nature of the evidence offered in support of many of accusations.