The Turkish government have ordered the detention of 304 military personnel over suspected links to the Gulen movement.
Authorities believe that Fatullah Gulen and his supporters were behind the 2016 failed coup attempt and have designated the movement as a terrorist organisation. The only other states to recognise it as such is Pakistan. The Gulf Cooperation Council and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation both support Turkey’s stance.
The British Government, Germany, and the EU Counter-Terrorism Coordinator have all said they do not consider the Gulen movement as a terrorist organisation and there is a lack of evidence to support Turkey’s claim.
This hasn’t stopped Turkey from arresting around 80,000 people including civil servants, journalists, activists, teachers, military employees, and family members of those suspected of links. 150,000 others have been sacked or suspended from their work.
In the latest crackdown, the operation started in the western coastal province of Izmir and spread through 50 other provinces. Most of the suspects are on active duty and are accused of being in contact with people who have links to Gulen’s network.
But the Turkish government hasn’t kept the crackdown within their borders. They placed increasing pressure on 3rd countries including Albania, Kosovo, and Bosnia and Herzegovina, to deport those with alleged Gulen links.
Several controversial extraditions have taken place with concerns over lack of legal and due process. The EU and the UN have raised concerns over Albania’s treatment of these individuals. The latter noted that Albania was complicit in extraterritorial abductions and enforced disappearances of Turkish nationals due to a series of “secret agreements” signed with Turkey.
Furthermore, schools in Albania that were allegedly linked to the Gulen movement or its supporters have also been pressured by the government. Recently the Turgut Ozulschool filed a criminal complaint against the State Police for raiding its premises without a warrant, court order, and for using excessive force.
Teachers described to Exit how the police arrived at several campuses simultaneously without any documentation to support their presence. They filmed students and confiscated student and parent lists along with other documents.
The state claims they are being investigated on suspicion of money laundering but the school maintains that its audits and books are totally above board. In fact, a recent state audit of the school did not find any issues.
Earlier this year, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu visited Albania and thanked the government for its “steps” against the Gulen movement. He urged Albania to hand over its members to Turkey, reminding the country that it expects the support of Albania in this matter.
Last year, a memorial for the victims of the failed coup was unveiled at the Lake Park. This was a controversial move as many questioned why Albania needed such a memorial, noting there was nothing for the thousands of victims of Communism.
A recent report by AEFT for the European Parliament found that Albanian media was full of “spin” articles that painted Turkey in a good light.