A billboard in New York City’s Times Square that reads “STOP ERDOGAN,” referring to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, whose rule has seen the imprisonment of tens of thousands on politically motivated charges, has drawn the ire of officials from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
Paid for by Turkish rights group Advocates of Silenced Turkey, a US-based nonprofit focused on addressing human rights violations in Turkey, AKP spokesperson Ömer Çelik branded the sign as the work of the Gülen movement, a faith-based group outlawed by Ankara.
Following a coup attempt on July 15, 2016, the Turkish government and President Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement. In Turkey it is classed as a terrorist organisation.
Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the movement, strongly denied having any role in the failed coup and called for an international investigation into it, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.