One of Turkey’s most zealous pro-government dailies, Akşam, came out with a bizarre headline on Aug. 30: “The Patriarchate-CIA-Gülen Alliance.”

Accordingly, Turkey’s failed coup attempt was cooked up not just by the Gülenist element in the military, as almost all Turks agree by now. Also involved was the CIA, Turks’ usual suspect, and even the Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarchate, the spiritual leader to 300 million Orthodox Christians worldwide. Moreover, this “news story” was supposedly based on a solid source: An “article” supposedly written by Arthur Hughes, the former U.S. ambassador to Yemen.

When I read this nonsense, I thought it must be yet another childish and unethical invention by Akşam. The newspaper had made up a similar story right after the coup, demonizing an academic conference on Istanbul’s Büyükada as “the headquarters of the coup.” (Henri Barkey, the academic who was the biggest target in that stupid libel, recently wrote a good piece in the New York Times: “Why Is Turkey Accusing Me of Plotting a Coup?”)

I soon realized, however, this time the real source of the bilge was not Akşam, but a Moscow-based website named “Oriental Review.” It was this website that had actually published an “article” by Arthur Hughes that put the blame for the coup on the Patriarchate, with references to the friendly relations between Fethullah Gülen and His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. 

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