As far as the government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is concerned, winter is always coming for the followers of exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen.
Turkish prosecutors have accused followers of Gulen of using the popular television fantasy series Game of Thrones as a weapon to infiltrate the military and set up the failed July coup attempt.
“The indictment, based on eyewitness testimonies, says that by screening the show to young military cadets, the way was paved for FETÖ infiltrators to launch a blacklisting scheme. Thus, they would be able to install their own infiltrators in military schools to train cadets linked to the group,” writes the Daily Sabah.
“FETO” stands for Fethullah Terrorist Organization, the Turkish government’s preferred name for members of Gulen’s “Hizmet” movement. The indictment in question covers 136 military judges and prosecutors accused of ties to the Gulenist organization.
A key witness in the case reported that teachers at the Maltepe Military High School in Izmir screened episodes of the HBO series for students in 2011. According to the indictments, these screenings were used in a ploy by the Gulenists to take out loyal, patriotic military instructors and replace them with FETO operatives.
Game of Thrones, for those unfamiliar with the show, contains copious amounts of violence and nudity. The teachers reportedly wanted to use the show to help students improve their English, which seems reasonable because it is hard to argue with Peter Dinklage and Charles Dance as English teachers.
However, prosecutors say the Gulenists pounced and fired off letters to the authorities, accusing the teachers of “insulting Turkishness” and committing “sexual exploitation” by screening the racy show for their young students. The case became known in Turkey as the “Game of Thrones Investigation” and led to four military officers being removed from their posts, although they were later cleared of charges by Turkey’s Constitutional Court.
The Turkish Armed Forces later updated its regulations to ban screening movies or television programs that portray “sexual exploitation, pornography, exhibitionism, abuse, harassment, and all negative behaviors,” with Game of Thrones cited as an example of all of the above.
The military commission that condemned Game of Thrones was also convinced that some of the characters in the show were supposed to represent Turks, and not in a flattering light, given all of the sex, violence, and alcohol consumption surrounding them.
In a completely unrelated development, classes on Islam, the Koran, and the life of Mohammed were introduced to Turkish military academies at the same time.
The key witness in the new indictments, Turkish Navy prosecutor Lt. Volkan Yetistirici, also accused Gulenists of “blacklisting judges and prosecutors not tied to the organization” and pushing complaints against him when he didn’t prosecute the Game of Thrones case vigorously enough to suit them.
“The biggest characteristic of this organization is having a cell-type structure and a professional intelligence network,” he said.
The court that cleared the fired officers actually agreed that Game of Thrones “should not be screened in classes” because “moral values and discipline are of great value to military personnel” but ruled that forcing out the officers involved in screening it was “disproportionate.”
If there is one thing the Erdogan government might find agreeable about Game of Thrones, it is the quote that gives the series its title: “When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die.”