Turkey has been feeling the repercussions, despite quelling the July 15 coup attempt, last year.
Tens of thousands of citizens have been arrested and over 100,000 civil servants, university professors and soldiers had been sacked, in government purges.
The finger of blame for the attempted coup is pointed at self-exiled Islamic scholar Fethullah Gulen. Turkish President Erdogan has declared the Gulen movement to be a terrorist organisation and accuses the 76 year old cleric, who has lived in the US since the late 1990’s, of masterminding the failed attempted coup.
Turkey is demanding that Gulen, who is said to have millions of supporters in Turkey, be extradited from the US. The elderly cleric has consistently denied any responsibility for the coup.
“To this day, I have stood against all coups,” Gulen told NPR’s Robert Siegel, who visited the cleric’s compound in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania, in the Pocono Mountains, on Monday.
“My respect for the military aside, I have always been against interventions. …To this day, I have stood against all coups. I suffered during the military intervention of May 27, 1960, and then again on March 12, 1971 and again on September 12, 1980, and I was targeted on February 28, 1997.
“I don’t know the people who attempted the July 15 coup. They might know me, they may have attended some lectures — I have no idea. Thousands of people have come here to the retreat to visit, among them 50 members of parliament, former President Abdullah Gul, former Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. …For this reason, many people might know me, but I don’t know them. .If any one among those soldiers had called me and told me of their plan, I would tell them, ‘You are committing murder.’”
Gulen, who rarely gives interview to the press, expressed concern for Turkey’s future, but has “some hope”, he said.
“If they ask me what my final wish is,” he added, “I would say the person who caused all this suffering and oppressed thousands of innocents, I want to spit in his face.”
When asked if he was referring to Erdogan, he replied: “It can’t be anyone else. He is the oppressor.”
When approached by NPR, the Turkish embassy declined to issue a written response to Gulen’s remarks.