TSK's new religious directorate paves way for infiltration by religious groups - opposition MP

The Turkish Defence Ministry’s newly formed Religious Services Directorate, whose cadres will be filled by civilians,  paves the way for the infiltration  of the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) by religious groups, opposition lawmaker Hüsnü Bozkurt said on Friday.

The formation of the directorate was announced on Thursday as an institution which will coordinate and deliver the commands of the Defence Ministry on religious services to commanderships in the TSK, in addition to serving as a religious counselling service.

Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) lawmaker Bozkurt shared details of the directorate as outlined in the newly passed law on his Twitter account, pointing to a clause pertaining to the employment of civilians as staff members.

"The staff to be employed in the TSK will be met through the framework of other legislation pertaining to the employment of staff through civilian resources,’’ the law as shared by the CHP lawmaker said.

"An opportunity has been born for religious sects and groups,’’ Bozkurt said on Twitter, in an apparent reference to the Gülen movement, a religious group accused of infiltrating state institutions and orchestrating the July 2016 coup attempt. 

Led by U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gülen, the Gülen religious movement is widely believed to have infiltrated state institutions and the military over decades before the coup attempt took place.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has targeted hundreds of thousands of public officials and army personnel in a series of purges since July 2016.

"The AKP has for some reason decided to form this directorate in its 18th year in power,’’ Bozkurt said, while some of the TSK’s schools have been shut down.

The Turkish government shut down a number of universities and private schools and closed military academies over Gülen links in the aftermath of the failed putsch.