Exclusive interview of the Turkish Ambassador to Bangldesh
July 15 marks the third anniversary of the failed military coup to have taken place in the Republic of Turkey. Reflecting back, the Turkish envoy to Bangladesh, His Excellency Devrim Ozturk gives an exclusive interview to Daily Observer's Shahriar Feroze.
The Daily Observer: 15 July 2019 is the third anniversary of thefailed coup attempt in Turkey. Could you tell us how Turkey thwarted the perpetrators? Who is behind the attempt?
Turkish ambassador: Every year on July 15, we commemorate our martyrs and their bravery on the night of the coup attempt three years ago. In Turkey and our diplomatic missions all around the world, July 15 is observed as "Democracy and National Unity Memorial Day" and we remember the events of July 15 together with our citizens and friends in Dhaka.
The people of Turkey have experienced a vast trauma with a heinous coup attempton the night of 15 July 2016, orchestrated by Fetullah Gulen Terrorist Organisation (FETO). FETO members infiltrated into our army by disobeying the chain of command of the armed forces. This heinous act constitutes the deadliest terrorist attack that Turkey has ever experienced.That night, 251 citizens were killed and more than two thousand people were injured.
We have never before witnessed such savagery and treachery in our history as the one exhibited by the perpetrators of this coup attempt: our Parliament Building, the Presidential complex, the building of the National Intelligence Organization (MIT), buildings of the Turkish National Police, the Headquarters of the Police Special Operations Department located in Ankara were bombed by rogue pilots.
Tanks were driven to the streets to mow down innocent civilians, while helicopters and jets dropped bombs from the air and shot everyone in sight. The Fetullahist traitors disguised as soldiers did not shy away from bombing their brothers-in-arms. It has not been possible to reach the bodies of fifty-one police officers who were martyred as a result of intense bombing that targeted the Police Special Operations Department Headquarters in our capital city, Ankara.
Under the leadership of our President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, we have managed to overcome this trauma, as Bangladeshi people did under the leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina by eradicating militancy out of this country.
When treacherous terrorists infiltrated in our armed forces tried to perpetrate a coup against our democratically elected government on 15 July 2016, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina sent a very meaningful solidarity message to our President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. We are grateful for this timely support.
The Daily Observer: Could you give us more information about FETO?
Turkish ambassador: Fetullah Gulen is the ringleader of a clandestine, criminal and terrorist organization called FETO that is unprecedented in terms of its global reach, ambitions and methods. Gulen is one of the serious threats to Turkey. To understand the security threat posed by his crime network, one needs to look into the enormity of his actions, primarily the July 15 coup attempt, and the resulting trauma that the Turkish nation has experienced.
FETO is present in around 160 countries, with thousands of schools, businesses, NGOs and media houses. Their modus operandi is the same all around the world. As they aim to infiltrate and enlarge their global economic and political influence, they constitute a direct security threat for any country where they operate.
By brainwashing young minds at schools founded under the disguise of so-called training activities, FETO indoctrinated a large group of radical followers, who carried out the instructions of the organization's leadership unquestioningly and violated all legal and moral norms.Graduates of these schools were able to infiltrate the most critical institutions of the State by stealing exam questions.Furthermore, those considered as an obstacle to the organization were treacherously eliminated as FETO conspired against them.
FETO strengthened its economic and political influence by abusing the State's resources and authority for the vile interests of the organization. On the 15th of July, we were able to grasp the sheer size of the secret structure established by FETO within our most critical institution, the Turkish Armed Forces.
The fight against FETO both inside and outside Turkey has constituted one of the main priorities of our State. We brought the perpetrators of the 15th of July coup attempt to justice on the basis of the rule of law. We unveiled FETO's organizational structure within governmental institutions, administrative and judicial procedures have been initiated against FETO members and hence the "parallel state structure" has been brought down. Apart from those within the governmental institutions, FETO's attempts to spread across all areas of the economy via its shell entities, particularly in the education, media and banking sectors, have been thwarted.
Despite facing extraordinary security challenges, we have been able to successfully conduct our fight at home in compliance with the principles of the rule of law and fundamental rights and freedoms. We have also expended efforts to avoid grievances and established new mechanisms to examine and settle alleged grievances.
As these developments took place, FETO has undergone a significant transformation. The organization, which lost its backbone in Turkey, is now trying to survive by making use of its structure abroad. Thus, fighting against the structures of FETO abroad has gained significance.
The international community gradually understands that FETO is not a social movement that engages with education and charity, contrary to the way it tries to portray itself, but rather a dark and insidious organization with political and economic ambitions. A clear awareness regarding the characteristics of the organization has developed among public opinions abroad.
The awareness raised regarding FETO in third countries has also stimulated closer monitoring and investigation of the activities related to these elements by the officials of the aforementioned countries. Unlawful acts carried out by FETO-affiliated organizations have thus been revealed in various countries. The members of the organization have been deported accordingly. In addition to those deported to third countries, more than one hundred and ten FETO members from over twenty countries have been extradited to Turkey.
The Turkish Maarif Foundation (TMF) has taken over FETO-affiliated schools in eighteen countries. The activities of FETO affiliated schools and language courses have been terminated in thirty-six countries.
We appreciate the support of Prime Minister Hasina's Government in its efforts on keeping FETO-affiliated individuals and institutions away from Bangladeshi soil. Nevertheless, several FETO members still residing in Bangladesh pose serious threat to this country, exploiting their previous connections with some institutions and misguided individuals.
Our efforts for fully eliminating the structures of FETO abroad constitutes a long-term fight. The Turkish Government will resolutely maintain its efforts in that regard.
The Daily Observer: What is the present situation in Turkey after the coup attempt? What can you say about the status of bilateral relations between Turkey and Bangladesh?
Turkish ambassador: The Our stability is still strong despite all difficulties including the war that is going on right on the other side of our borders with Syria and the Syrian inflow to Turkey because of the war. After the foiled coup attempt, the ruling party and opposition parties stood together against FETO and its affiliates.
Turkish democracy proved itself to become stronger after the July 15 heinous coup attempt. The democratically elected government maintained its power with the will of the people. With the constitutional referendum of 16 April 2017, the Turkish people have decided to change the government system of the country into an executive presidential system, which enables a more rapid and stable decision-making process. It makes Turkey one of the few countries in the world to change its government system through democratic means. Turkish people showed their commitment to democracy on the presidential and parliamentary elections of 24 June 2018 and HERecepTayyip Erdogan was electedas President with 52.6% of the total votes. Transition to presidential system of government consolidated our democracy even further.
Once again, Prime Minister Hasina was amongst the first world leaders to congratulate President Erdogan for his re-election, as she was one of the first to send a solidarity message after the heinous coup attempt.
After the parliamentary elections in Turkey on 24 June 2018 and in Bangladesh on 30 December 2018, both Turkey and Bangladesh have the political will to further develop bilateral relations. This positive approach was stated during the third round of the Political Consultations between the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of Turkey and Bangladesh, which was held on 20 May 2019 in Ankara.
We appreciate the commitment of Bangladesh to democracy, human rights, rule of law, social rights, gender equality, free market economy and cultural diversity. We also welcome the recent steady economic growth and development trend in this country. We gladly observe that high level of economic growth in Bangladesh in the last ten years attracts more Turkish businessmen to invest and open businesses in Bangladesh.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's zero tolerance policy towards global terrorism and militancy is one of the key elements in our common political agenda. Turkey and Bangladesh are close partners on the international fight against terrorism, and will work together to curb dreadful clandestine organisations and their illicit activities.
We empathise with Bangladesh on its remarkable efforts on dealing with the Rohingya Crisis as we now host more thanfour million refugees including approximately3.5 million Syrians who fled the war in Syria. Prime Minister Hasina and her government, as well as the people of Bangladesh, are displaying an indispensable humanitarian virtue and resolve for helping these stateless poor people. It is a humanitarian tragedy and should be a concern for the international community, as a whole. In our own capacity, we are deeply engaged with this issue, both in terms of lasting political solution and humanitarian assistance to the refugees.
The interviewer is the Editor-in-charge for the editorial section, The Daily Observer