Fri. Dec 4th, 2020

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Turkish Sports Stars Get Caught up in Erdogan-Gulen War

2 min read

The above quote attributed to US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen from a sermon that first surfaced online in 1999 is often cited whenever someone is referring to the Islamic scholar-in-exile as a subversive political influence in his native Turkey.

Gulen is accused by the Turkish government of staging an unsuccessful coup in the country last month that left 265 people dead and triggered massive government reprisals targeting thousands of judges, military officers, teachers, academics and journalists.

Now the conflict has reached the world of sport.

In one of the more absurd-seeming news items to emerge from Turkey this week, Turkish prosecutors have reportedly issued a warrant for the arrest of former Turkish football star Hakan Sukur, who holds the all time goalscoring record for the national team.

Best-known for his exploits with Istanbul club Galatasaray as well as being part of the Turkish national team that finished third in the World Cup in South Korea in 2002, Sukur was also a member of the President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling AKP (Justice and Development Party) from 2011 to 2013.

But following the Erdogan and Gulen political fallout that dates back to at least 2012, Sukur apparently chose Gulen, and is now facing accusations of being a member of “an armed terror movement.

Although Kanter’s defence of Gulen will sound familiar to anyone who has lost friends or family to cults, his family’s disownment of him is equally worrying, as media comparisons between Turkey in 2016 and the purges of the Stalin-era Soviet Union continue to bear fruit.

Erdogan has repeatedly demanded the United States extradite Gulen, who is reportedly suffering from a long-term illness.

Gulen’s global network of schools and universities has also come under a renewed diplomatic siege from Ankara since the July 16 coup attempt, with Turkish officials demanding governments around the world shutter institutions linked to the scholar.

This article was initially published at globalvoices

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