The feud between Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s camp and US-based Sunni religious leader Fethullah Gulen supporters, which hit the surface about two months ago by the revelation of the graft probe against key government members, narrowed down to one single name today, Feb. 7: Mahir Zeynalov. This Azeri-born columnist for Today’s Zaman, identified as a supporter of the Gulen movement in Istanbul, was deported earlier in the day because he posted two tweets on Dec. 25, drawing attention to news articles that talked about Erdogan’s troubling relationship with Yasin al-Qadi, whom the United States considers to be the financier of al-Qaeda.
For Celil Sagir, Today’s Zaman deputy executive editor, however, his deportation has a broader message. “We should not look at Mahir Zeynalov’s deportation as an issue between the two [Erdogan and Gulenist] sides. This is an outright chilling message to all the foreign media — name it: Reuters, BBC, CNN or others, that they should think twice before criticizing the government,” Sagir told Al-Monitor. Zeynalov used to be a sympathizer of the Erdogan government’s policies, but he gradually started to shift his position after the Gezi Park protests in late May and early June.