An unprecedented fight has been underway in Turkey over the past year, with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) pitted against the Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen and his followers. As the war intensifies by the day, tensions in Turkey are mounting, and virtually everyone is being forced to take sides. Remarks made by Erdogan in a mid-December speech said it all: “Those who don’t take sides will be sidelined.” No one has the luxury of simply watching the fight from the stands.
Erdogan has managed to secure the support of his party and electorate in this war, which he made the backbone of his campaign strategy in the March municipal elections and the presidential elections held in August. Gulen, once respected by Erdogan, is now vilified and branded an “assassin” — a reference to Hassan Sabbah’s violent medieval cult. Thousands of public servants allegedly close to the Gulen community have been removed from their jobs. Some have been arrested.