In Turkey, the Erdogan government continues to persecute the followers of Fethullah Gülen, a preacher who fell out with his former ally Recep Tayyip Erdogan. In order to track down hidden Gülenists, Erdogan's police appears very creative, as discussed in Turkish Minute, an opposition webzine published outside Turkey, probably by the Gülen movement.
“Who introduced you to your spouse?” is one of the questions routinely asked during the interrogation of people detained as part of investigations into the Gülen movement in Turkey. This seemingly odd question about private life is connected to the mass incarceration of thousands of people in the country. A police operation on the morning of Jan. 26 that led to the detention of 19 upon warrants issued by Ankara prosecutors was just one example.
The detainees are charged with forming the “marriage network” of the Gülen group, which is accused by the Turkish government of orchestrating a failed coup in July 2016 despite its denial of any involvement. According to the prosecutors, the suspects taken into custody were involved in efforts to help single Gülen movement followers get married.
“In the framework of investigations into FETÖ’s current marriage network, detention warrants have been issued in Ankara for 19 suspects across 13 provinces who have been identified in informant testimonies as being affiliated with the FETÖ/PDY,” the Ankara Chief Prosecutor’s Office said in a written statement, using the derogatory terminology that the Turkish government and authorities have adopted to refer to the group.
Intel criteria for identifying Gülen followers
Family is also one of the fields that the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) looks into as part of their efforts to uncover members of the faith-based group. Having a handicapped child is also one of MİT’s criteria as Gülen followers often choose not to abort their handicapped babies out of religious considerations.
Another criterion is how the spouses met each other. If the couple was introduced to each other with the help of a Gülen follower, the entire family is identified as such.
Coming from a modest socioeconomic background and climbing up in society is also one of the criteria. For instance, high-ranking civil servants or military officers who grew up in rural areas and in families without other high-level bureaucrats are also suspected.
Getting an education abroad and speaking foreign languages are also listed as criteria as many Gülen followers, particularly those in public service, have gone abroad for education at some point in their lives and their linguistic skills are often above the national average.
Among the many criteria, those who fulfill at least three are usually identified as suspected Gülen movement members and referred by prosecutors to courts for arrest.
Police registering stories of marriage
According to Interior Ministry data, some 550,000 people in Turkey have been the subject of Gülen-related investigations, and about 170,000 have thus far been arrested for varying periods of time. Some 30,000 are currently held behind bars, and thousands of cases are still pending before courts.