“Did Fethullah Gülen Die Two Years Ago?”

070120151125171240655_2Did Fethullah Gülen, the U.S.-based Islamic scholar who has turned from being the Turkish government’s ally into its bête noire, die in September, 2013?

This question, highly speculative even in a country of wild conspiracy theories like Turkey, was asked by a mysterious reporter to Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç during a post-cabinet meeting press conference late Feb. 3.

The dialogue went as follows:

Reporter: “There is serious speculation that [Gülen’s death has been concealed] to prevent a massive break-up of the Cemaat [Gülen community]. Have you heard anything about that?”

Arınç: “You have surprised me very much.”

Reporter: “There has been no video footage released of him alive since then.”bulent-arinc.20150103154344

Arınç: “If it was April Fool’s Day, I would think that you had asked this question with a certain motive. This is the first time I’ve heard about it and I don’t find it serious. I don’t know whether any rumor or anything like that has ever been heard by my colleagues. You’re serious with this question, aren’t you?”

Repoters: “It was published in newspapers.”

Arınç: “Which newspapers?”

Reporter: “It was in ‘Ege’nin Sesi’ [a local daily in Turkey’s Aegean region] published a story.”

Arınç: “’Ege’nin Sesi’? Do you work for that newspaper?”

Reporter: “No.”

Arınç: “This is the first time I’ve heard about this newspaper. Is it a local one?”

Reporter: “It has been published for years.”

-gulen-olmus-diyen-muhabirle-ilgili-sok-ayrinti-1272531Arınç: “Is it published in İzmir? So, your source is ‘Ege’nin Sesi’? So you are advertising this newspaper. It shouldn’t be taken seriously. God protect our sanity!”

Throughout the rest of the meeting, Arınç looked “confused,” in his own words. “I am overwhelmed,” he said after being unable to understand an unrelated question from another reporter. “Guys, give me my medicine after this meeting. This lady has ruined me,” he said.

Meanwhile, a source in the Prime Ministry told Hürriyet that the reporter had identified herself as Nevin Çelik and showed a press card. Although she failed to provide a document of assignment from a media outlet on Feb. 2, Hürriyet has learned the reporter was previously allowed to accompany Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu as part of his media entourage.

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