What was the “West Working Group” and why did it target the Gülen Movement?

Fethullah Gülen

The West Working Group was a group set up initially within the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK); it was subsequently abolished or modified into various tactical units. The West Working Group interfered with politics and governance and became a unit that planned anti-democratic schemes and putsch-like events. (Since the group was disbanded, its members have resurfaced in warfare units in the TSK that have continued to plot strategies for coup attempts.) The group claimed its name epitomized its adherence to Western values because Westernization is one of the fundamental principles of the Turkish Republic.

However, the members’ actions gave the lie to their words: the task of safeguarding democracy means playing the democratic game to its fullest extent: it means demanding that all political players make the reasons for their positions and policies known to the public; it means ensuring that “the rules of the game” are respected; it means struggling against the monopolization of information; it means opposing government policies constructively, i.e. by offering credible alternative policies. It means also that the autonomy of civil society actors must be respected. Their concerns must not be collapsed into the political arena; rather, political actors and society in general must acknowledge and respect the distance that civil society actors maintain from the political arena.

Regrettably, the culture of this and similar special interest groups was, on February 28 during the period of the post-modern coup and subsequent intervention, ill-prepared to undertake the task of safeguarding democracy, for those groups have always sought to reduce everything produced in civil society to political in-fighting, threats or manipulation. The Turkish public now sees that interest groups embodied in such units as the West Working Group do not care at all about Western values. They are dreaming of a West devoid of democratization, individual rights, human rights, freedom of worship and civil initiative.