Turkey’s Culture Minister Numan Kurtulmus reported to his parliament on Tuesday that some 140,000 books have been removed from libraries for “including propaganda of FETO.”
FETO stands for Fethullah Terrorist Organization, which is Turkey’s name for followers of exiled imam Fethullah Gulen.
“Publications on FETÖ and Fethullah Gülen, as well as publications from publishing houses closed down by state of emergency decrees – included in our ministry’s collection of 1,142 libraries – have been urgently withdrawn,” said Kurtulmus, as quoted by Hurriyet Daily News.
The following day, Kurtulmus specified that 139,141 publications were under inspection for Gulenist propaganda.
The Turkish government blames Gulen, who has lived in the United States for many years, for orchestrating the July 2016 coup attempt against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Gulen has denied responsibility and claimed he would have acted against the coup if possible. He then added, during one of his rare press interviews, that his dying wish would be to spit in Erdogan’s face.
Gulen’s enigmatic organization, which calls itself Hizmet, runs a large network of charter schools around the world, with an estimated two million students. The Erdogan government frequently accuses Gulenists of infiltrating Turkey’s education system, military, and civilian bureaucracy. Planting propaganda in library books would be precisely the sort of technique the Gulen movement is accused of employing to subvert Turkish society.
It should be noted that not all suspicion of Gulen and the Hizmet network emanates from the Turkish government. Other critics have accused his charter schools of recruiting followers for Gulen, defrauding the U.S. government, and abusing the U.S. immigration system.
Turkey’s government previously called for schools and libraries to recall and destroy a catalog of Gulenist works, including books from 29 publishing houses, along with 15 magazines and 45 newspapers. Gulen books were seized during a high-profile anti-drug operation in Adana on Wednesday.
In addition to books by or about Gulen and his beliefs, the Turkish Education Ministry has reportedly destroyed math textbooks that used his initials in a question (“From point F to point G…”) and books that merely mentioned Pennsylvania, the American state where Gulen resides.
Education “reforms” under Erdogan are not limited to purging Gulen and his beliefs. Eager to make Turkey a more Islamist country with a more “pious” population, the government has removed references to Western science, such as the work of Charles Darwin, and even sought to diminish the stature of once-revered Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the godfather of secular government in Turkey.