Erdoğan Is Not Turkey’s Only Problem

Much of the world has begun to recognize that it must reckon with an increasingly authoritarian Turkish regime built around a popular but deeply flawed leader. What has yet to be understood fully is the separate, and quite disturbing, role played by followers of the cleric Fethullah Gülen.

PRINCETON – Türkan Saylan was a trailblazing physician, one of Turkey’s first female dermatologists and a leading campaigner against leprosy. She was also a staunch secularist who established a foundation to provide scholarships to young girls so they could attend school. In 2009, police raided her house and confiscated documents in an investigation that linked her to an alleged terrorist group, called “Ergenekon,” supposedly bent on destabilizing Turkey in order to precipitate a military coup.

Saylan was terminally ill with cancer at the time and died shortly thereafter. But the case against her associates continued and became part of a vast wave of trials directed against opponents of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his allies in the powerful Gülen movement, made up of the followers of the Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen.

The evidence in this case, as in so many others, consists of Microsoft Word documents found on a computer that belonged to Saylan’s foundation. When American experts recently examined the forensic image of the hard drive, they made a startling – but for Turkey all too familiar – discovery. The incriminating files had been placed on the hard drive sometime after the computer’s last use at the foundation. Because the computer had been seized by the police, the finding pointed rather directly to official malfeasance.

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