Media expert, Quru Maharramli, on the anti – Gulen wave in Azerbaijan

This article was originally published by the

BBC Azeri Service.


After the attempted July 15th coup in Turkey, the government of Azerbaijan arrested several members of the Azerbaijani Popular Front Party and accused them of maintaining ties with the ‘Fethullah Terrorist Organization’ and of possessing ‘advisable reading and listening material’ related to Gulen’s movement.

Media expert and professor Qulu Maharramli, who has on multiple occasions met and spoken with Fethullah Gulen, is closely associated with his name in Azerbaijani media.

Mr. Maharramli met Mr. Gulen twice – once while working for Azerbaijani television channel, Khazar, and once in Pennsylvania, where the theologist currently resides. The first time was in the context of a Khazar TV channel staff meeting in Azerbaijan in 1992.

On the journalist’s own initiative, he later prepared a wide-ranging interview with the theologian in 1998. This interview was broadcasted during Qulu Maharramli’s program, ‘Gerçəklik’ (Reality).

“We spoke about everything. Questions concerning the role of education in society, the future of Azerbaijan and Turkey, the fate of Central Asia, Ottoman imperial history, his meeting with the Pope. There were no political questions. We spoke mostly of questions pertaining to education. Later, in 2011, while I was in America, I tried to get in to see him one more time and take another interview. I met him at a certain gathering, but he said he didn’t have time and did not agree to an interview.”

As a journalist that has gotten to know Fethullah Gulen from up close, how do you assess the events of the past two months? Is there a real threat to Azerbaijan from the so – called, “Gulen Terrorist Organization?”

It would seem to me that the events are being presented in a rather exaggerated way. For example, just look – what have Gulenists done in Azerbaijan? What danger could they possibly pose? Do they intervene in any political processes? What do they do, aside from promote education and business? Do they become involved in political activity? Do they have any complaints against the government? Look, I cannot give an appropriate answer to this question.

A number of well – known individuals in Azerbaijan have been fingered out for their participation in the publication of Gulen – related books. How do you react to this?

The issue of these books can not be taken seriously. If Gulen were actually a terrorist, then both the Turkish and Azerbaijani parliaments must rule on this matter. But we see no such actions from the authorities, no such official announcements – only half-hearted allegations.

And this is creating something of a ridiculous situation. And this is very dangerous. This is harming societal psychological health, and is having a serious and negative effect on people’s behavior.

What is the reason for this wave and reaction in Azerbaijan? To respond to the demands of Turkey, or is it in the interest of the authorities to take advantage of the situation?

The press claims that this wave of arrests is taking place in the context of the pressure coming from the Turkish government. But I don’t know how seriously this can be taken.

This was a good opportunity for the government to close certain media and TV channels and to interfere in other aspects of public life. In transitional periods such as the one we are in now, everyone takes advantage of such companies, to get revenge on them, to tarnish their name. Such things happen often. This is a passing wave, I don’t believe it will last long.

These arrests and persecutions – might they infect the government camp as well?

I’d have trouble agreeing with that. Because Azerbaijan is a small country, and everyone knows each other, and what everyone else is up to.

For example, Gulen has schools in Azerbaijan. Hundreds of people have graduated from these schools. There was Qafqaz University – thousands of students graduated from there. And so everyone, in some form or another, has some connection to things currently frowned upon by the government; why did you study there? Why do you have contact with these people?

And thus, the turning of Gulen into a terrorist – scarecrow and abusing the people that he has affected is creating much tension in society.

Have you ever been investigated for your contact and interviews with Fethullah Gulen?

Why should I be investigated? What have I done…

The forewords of Gulen’s books, opinion writers and editors have been mentioned often recently by the press…

And? I’ve written a foreword for one of his books as well. I highly appreciate the investments Gulen has made in education. I think that the educational method offered by Gulen schools give students a great way to grow and mature, and his schools have turned out a number of individuals who have proven themselves invaluable to society, including computer engineers, programmers, teachers, bankers and financial workers. And this is not a whimsical estimation. Why should we not appreciate a movement whose followers are beneficial for society, and who have a positive affect on people’s spiritual lives?

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