On December 16th, 2018, the Turkish Foreign Affairs Minister surprised the participants of the Doha Forum and declared that during the G20 summit in Argentina, the United States President Donald Trump announced to the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan that the U.S. is working and intended to extradite Fethullah Gülen, who lives in exile in Pennsylvania, United States, along with a number of people he didn’t elaborate on. According to Erdoğan, the “Hizmet” movement, Gülen’s organization, is a terrorist organization and Gülen is responsible for the failed coup attempt against him on June 15th, 2016.
This announcement shows a significant change in the U.S. approach towards Gülen’s status. Two days after the coup d’état failed attempt; Erdoğan demanded the United States government to extradite Gülen.
The Secretary of State of that time, John Kerry, referred to this demand and said that “Turkey will have to show evidence of Gülen’s crimes”.
During a talk that was held the following month between the previous United States President, Barack Obama and Erdoğan this kind of narrative persisted.
Similarly, a month ago Trump also declared he has no intention to extradite Gülen to Turkey as a part of his attempt to minimize the pressure Turkey put on Saudi Arabia in the Khashoggi Assassination case. In last October, when Turkey succumbed to the American pressure and agreed to release from prison an American priest whom Turkey blamed for being a part of the coup d’état attempt, a speculation was raised regarding the possibility of Trump’s administration secretly agreeing to extradite Gülen to Turkey in exchange, however United Stated denied it since.
However the combination of the assassination of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Arabia consulate in Istanbul along with the concern for the Kurds’ situation in northern Syria has probably caused the change in the American government approach towards the Gülen Extradition Issue.
These days, the Americans require help from the Turks in solving two issues: solving the assassination case of Khashoggi that can only be done through the local Turkish security entities and finding a solution for the Kurds that live in northern Syria, acknowledged by the U.S. and being threatened by the Turks that see them as a terrorist organization.
The aforementioned autonomous region is acknowledged by the Iraqi Kurdistan and partially by the murderous regime on Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad.
The United States and some European countries partially acknowledge this entity; maintain ties and supply ammunition and armament against other forces in the ongoing campaign in Syria.
Turkey, on the other hand, is strongly opposed to the existence of Kurdish autonomy in Syria due to concerns following the rising demands for independence of Kurds that reside within Turkey’s borders. With the last several months showing the end of the battles in Syria and the upcoming stabilization of the situation, there are those in the United States that are concerned for this entity’s fate and possible attacks of Turkey on the Kurds.
The fact that Erdoğan and his government members define these two entities as terrorist organizations, along with significant diminishing of freedom of speech, imprisonment of thousands of people, including journalists and media members that Erdoğan wishes to silence should raise a concern among the American government members when they discuss the extradition issue.
Erdoğan strives to eradicate Turkey, as well as other Turkish communities scattered around the world, from any foreign influences (whether Western, Kurdish, Israeli or associated with Gülen’s movement) and unite the Turkish collectivity under his exclusive rule.
Should another official request be supplied to the American court to extradite Gülen and the verdict (without any intervention of politicians or any other international pressure) will be to strip his off his Green Card and send him to answer for his crimes in Turkey, then this is how it should be. If not, then the United Stated government shouldn’t cooperate with this demand. The United States government and its allies in Europe should find other ways to deal with the two factors that caused the change.
The journalist Khashoggi assassination case should not become a tool for the Turkish government to reach their goal of eliminating all those who oppose them.
Supporting Kurds in northern Syria should not come at the expense of another group that is threatened by Erdoğan. The free world and its’ leaders need to find the suitable ways to protect the weak and not to trade with their rights.