Feb 16 2018

AKP's Naqshbandi allies replace Gülenists – academic

Turkey’s leadership has allied itself with powerful Turkish sufi sects to fill the gaps left by purged members of another religious community who are accused of plotting the failed July 2016 coup attempt, according to Ceng Sagnic, a researcher at Tel Aviv University’s Moshe Dayan Centre for Middle Eastern Studies.

The Islamist cleric, Fethullah Gülen, allegedly masterminded the 2016 coup attempt from his residence in Pennsylvania. The ruling Justice and Development Party claims this was the culmination of years of attacks on the elected government by Gülenists within the judiciary and police force, starting with a provocative series of corruption probes on top AKP officials in December 2013.

Thousands of followers of Gülen are widely believed in Turkey to have infiltrated state institutions, including the judiciary and police force, over the last two decades.

The wide-scale purges conducted under a state of emergency after the coup attempt have seen tens of thousands of suspected Gülenists arrested or dismissed from their positions, leaving a vacuum in the state bureaucracy. According to Sagnic’s article, this may have been filled by members of different religious communities.

Sagnic writes that members of the Süleymancı, Menzil and İsmailağa orders have filled the gap left by Gülenists and “come to develop hegemonic authority over several ministries.”

All three are Sufi Muslim communities, of the broad spiritual order called Naqshbandi. Naqshbandi orders are among the most prolific and influential in Turkey, and are thought to make up the “core” of the AKP.

Sagnic’s article reports allegations by Turkey’s opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) that the Menzil order has taken control of the health, justice and interior ministries.

The article also speculates that a heavily armed security branch, the Police Special Operations Department (PÖH) has significantly expanded since the coup attempt to now include over 45,000 officers, with many of the officers being selected on the recommendation of the Menzil order.

The PÖH were among the most active security forces to stand against the putschists during the coup attempt, and have since occupied buildings in urban areas that the military has been ordered to vacate due to fears of a second attempt, according to Sagnic’s article.

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