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Dec 21 2018

Gülen followers in Albania wary of friendly Ankara-Tirana relations - Balkan Insight

Some 60 Turkish families linked to the Gülen movement, which Turkey accuses of carrying out a failed 2016 coup attempt, have found shelter in Albania, but friendly relations between Ankara and Tirana keep them on their toes, Balkan Insight said on Friday.

While the Gülen movement denies involvement in the coup attempt, the Turkish government has launched a purge against the religious group’s devotees both in Turkey and abroad. 

According to Amnesty International, more than 50,000 people accused of links to the Gülen Movement have been jailed, while over 130,000 public servants have been dismissed after the coup attempt. 

Ankara, seeking to increase its power in the Balkans, has also established strong ties with Tirana and Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama. Turkey has increased its investments in the country, including the construction of an airport in the southern coastal city of Vlora and the creation of a national airline.

Turkey has called on Tirana to shut down Gülen-linked schools, but Albania so far resisted, said Balkan insight, a news and analysis publication that focuses on southeastern Europe. 

“When it comes to Albania, we keep under observation people who are supposedly linked to that network,” Rama said this year. 

Turkey increased the pressure on Albania in October during a visit by Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, who asked his Albanian counterpart not to harbour what he called terrorists from Turkey. 

Albania is torn between the need to maintain good ties with Ankara and EU expectations that it support the human rights of those who have fled Turkey, Balkan Insight said. 

Since 2016, 35 Turkish citizens have applied for asylum in Albania, while several times that number are actually believed to have found shelter in the country, Balkan Insight said. But the newcomers are wary of Rama’s close relationship with Turkey, it said. 

“In the worst case scenario, if circumstances will not be in our favour, I will seek asylum from another European country,” said a Turkish journalist who fled to Albania. 

Tirana has become a popular destination for Gülen devotees due to the low cost of living, but the country’s weak economy also prevent them setting down roots, Balkan Insight said.

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