Turkish military seeks devout officers

At a time when signs of religiosity have become warning flags at the top of Turkey’s military hierarchy, recruiters have started to select for devout, pro-government potential officers at the ground floor.

According to Cumhuriyet newspaper, new candidates are being asked religiously charged questions including, “Do you read the Quran?”, and being quizzed on their general knowledge of Islam at interviews.

In addition, the paper said, they were being asked other questions to root out candidates who might have had sympathies for the anti-government Gezi protests, which flared up in 2013, or the Gülen movement, which stands accused of having attempted a military coup in July 2016.

The present head of the Turkish military, Hulusi Akar, comes from an Islamic-conservative background and was a classmate of former-President Abdullah Gül, who is from President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s AK Party.

While the military was long seen as a bastion of secularism, the barriers to entry were gradually dropped for candidates from more religious backgrounds.

Indeed, according to government accounts, by 2016 the Gülen movement, a religious faction, had gained so much headway that it was able to attempt a coup.

While the AK Party government may see the recruitment of a cadre of devout and loyal new officers as a form of coup-proofing, others fear that they will be recruited into other religious sects with their own agendas.