Turkey’s Erdoğan slams West for treatment of Muslims, vows to pursue Gülen

Leading democratic states have failed to protect the rights of Muslims, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told an event organised by a U.S.-Turkish advocacy organisation in New York.

Speaking at the Turkish American National Steering Committee event on Sunday, Erdoğan also vowed to continue pursuing enemies of his government around the world and seeking their extradition to Turkey.

The Turkish president is in New York to participate in the UN General Assembly this week, and is scheduled to address the assembly with a speech on Tuesday.

“Those who take every opportunity to give other countries lessons on democracy, law and human rights, who throw their weight around when it comes to their own rights, are playing blind, deaf and dumb when it comes to Muslims,” Turkish independent news site Diken quoted Erdoğan as saying.

The Turkish president said he would continue to advocate for the Palestinian cause, which he said was a red line for Turkey that he said touched the “dignity of 1.7 billion Muslims worldwide”.

Turkey will also seek justice for Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi journalist slain by a hit squad at his country’s consulate in Istanbul last year, and for the deposed and now late Egyptian president, Mohammed Morsi, Erdoğan said.

Turkey under Erdoğan has drifted away from its Western allies in recent years, while the Turkish president has followed an activist foreign policy in the Middle East region, supporting the Palestinian rights movement and regional uprisings.

Meanwhile, Erdoğan has reacted strongly against criticism from Western countries of his government’s hardline policies against dissidents within Turkey. The European Union voted to suspend accession negotiations with Turkey in 2016 as more than 100,000 public servants were dismissed and tens of thousands were arrested during a period of emergency rule.

But Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) says the crackdown was a necessary response after the government survived a coup attempt in July that year.

"Until all coup plotters are brought to justice, we will not quit going after them," Erdoğan said, referring to the Gülen religious movement that the AKP blames for the coup attempt.

Erdoğan said Turkey was taking steps to extradite the group’s leader, Islamist preacher Fethullah Gülen, from the United States, where he has lived in self-imposed exile since 1999.

Ankara is also seeking to shut down operations run by organisations linked to Gülen in the United States, Erdoğan said.

Followers of Gülen have set up an extensive network on charter schools and other businesses in the United States. A law firm employed by the Turkish government, Amsterdam & Partners, has published a book that it says proves many of these schools have defrauded U.S. taxpayers.

Gülenists and their allies in the United States have made efforts to harm U.S.-Turkish relations, Erdoğan said.

“Dear Americans, you are very wrong if you believe Fethullah Gülen’s cult is only Turkey’s problem,” Erdoğan’s Communications Director Fahrettin Altun said on Sunday in a tweet including a video on the Gülen charter schools.