History's greatest infiltration operation - MERVE ŞEBNEM ORUÇ

History's greatest infiltration operation

In 1996 I was in year 10. All private teaching institutions in my town would arrange exams, rewards and camps to attract successful students. The private teaching institution owned by the Gülenist group offered a group of 15 students, in which I was present too, the chance to join a free study camp. I accepted to go to the camp. On the first day after our study session, the institute's maths teacher came up to me and requested a favor. I thought he wanted me to help him carry something so I said "yes."

The maths teacher said they were interested in a student and that they needed my help. I was shocked, as this was a weird thing to ask someone you just met. Comprehending why they chose this particular student was even more annoying for me. My friend was the grandchild of a renowned religious group leader in our town. I packed my bag and left before sunset on that same day. When I got home, I remember saying to my parents, "they aren't Muslims, they are missionaries" during our dispute.

Only a few months after this incident the Feb. 28 post-modern coup happened. The year after imam-hatip schools and the conservatives experienced the greatest effects of the coup, these private teaching institutes continued more effectively.
Somehow they had convinced the city's prominent families to send their children to these institutes as well as enrolling the conservative victims of the post-modern coup. All this had some kind of explanation, but the incident I experienced the year before could not be explained at all. After this incident I chose to stay clear of this group during my university years and first years of my career, as they gave me a ungenuine feeling instead of a human one.

I chose to stay quiet until the 2011 Student Selection and Placement Center (ÖSYM) password scandal, as every time I tried to ask a question about the organization they would label me "paranoid" or "obsessed." Obviously we would call them "hizmet" which means service, or "cemaat" meaning congregation/movement during those years. This movement which played around with mock exam results and tried to legitimize it, would have played around with university exam results after 15 years of trying.
Years ago I used to think my opinion would have things missing, but I just couldn't put things together. Thus, there really was a shadow state; Turkey was a country that was wounded by coups many times; conservatives were under state threat, and they were discriminated against because of secularism.

The organization's democratization allegations and working against the government's dark side veiled our view. But the password scandal helped me know for sure. Their primary aim was to infiltrate religious groups, but their ultimate aim was to infiltrate the state using these students. We had not yet experienced the Uludere and Feb. 7 incidents; we did not understand the importance of the issue and did not know their position in the army and intelligence. We did not understand that they could infiltrate government institutions, the police and the army. We had not yet experienced Uludere or Feb. 7. We could not comprehend how strong they were especially in intelligence.

Wondering if there was a similar project in the world I did some research in the past. While browsing through the online archives of different American universities, I came across the 1970s Sciencetology movement of which famous actors like Tom Cruise and John Travolto were members. This movement had made attempts to infiltrate the U.S. government. The similarities with the Gülen Movement cannot be ignored.

The founder of the Scientology Church, L. Ron Hubbard, successfully infiltrated 136 government organizations, overseas commissions and consulates, including the private institutions of 30 foreign countries with the Operation Show Snow White. This was te U.S.'s largest infiltration operation conducted by 5,000 secret Sciencetology Church agents. The FBI became aware of the issue after a phone call, and initially thought that the KGB was behind the whole thing as those were the days of the Cold War. However they later found out that this was the Sciencetology Church trying to convince people in important places to join their movement and thus infiltrate state institutions. The movement, which had committed many crimes from forging documents to eavesdropping, was finally brought down by the FBI in 1979. Interestingly, after the Cold War and Sept. 11, when the U.S. government was asked questions about this movement's infiltration attempt they chose not to answer.

When I first read about this movement, the question "Will this movement which attempted to infiltrate the U.S. government give others inspiration to infiltrate other governments?" appeared in my head. After the Cold War period many moderate Muslim groups came about in the world including the Moon Cult and the Gülen Movement. Clearly, the Gülen Movement was the most successful one in terms of infiltrating the state.

Had they been successful during the Feb. 7, Gezi or the Dec. 17 and Dec. 25 attempts, they probably would not have attempted the July 15 coup. If the state wasn't on the case, in a few years time they would have taken over the military, police forces, the judicial system, intelligence, bureaucracy and diplomacy. The war President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his government waged on the Gülen terrorist organization caused the movement to take an early step and thus demolish itself. We went through a very big trauma, but successfully revealed a large-scale infiltration project. I hope we take lessons from everything we went through.


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