It was a beautiful day in London yesterday with local rain – it was definitely a break from an ongoing hot spell.
Having decided to make my journey by bus and after changing three of them, I arrived in the North London area of Edmonton, where a place of worship associated with a Gulenist-linked congregation stands on the main road.
I did not honestly know what to find there. Despite the fact that I was extremely upset with the death of at least 246 of my countrymen and women during a brutal coup attempt by Gulenist soldiers from every rank, as a professional journalist I think I had planned to take a few photos of the mosque and maybe speak to someone if the chance arose.
What I also did not know was that a plainclothes police officer would stop and question me straight after taking two photos of the mosque from a distance of 50 meters.
I was asked what photos I was taking and why.
I showed my press card to a local police officer. At first I believed he was just an off-duty policeman acting out of instinctive curiosity. Edmonton police station was just over a hundred meters away, after all.
However, soon after he revealed that he had just been in the Gulenist mosque and took all my details – a practice I never came across before. I understood that it was not random, off-duty police business.
I was asked to show the photos I took. I did.
It was surely an unprecedented moment as I never thought a counter-terrorism policeman in the U.K. would continue questioning a journalist during a simple assignment, especially at a time when global terror threats were running high.
We had a chat about the failed coup in Turkey. I gave him a quick round-up of events from my point of view and hoped he would understand why a Turkish journalist was interested in a mosque-turned-library where he thought “a very peaceful group practiced religious and cultural activities”.
Shortly after, we walked to the mosque.
Two security guards were at the gate. They wore yellow high-visibility safety tabards bearing the logo of the ‘Anatolian Cultural Centre’.
Our policeman told me that he could facilitate a quick interview with one of the Gulenists and walked into the mosque before coming out with a woman who probably was a spokesperson or a representative for the Mevlana Rumi Mosque.
She asked me what I expected to see there.
I showed her my Anadolu Agency card while quickly managing to drop a heavy question:
“What do you think about the failed coup in Turkey?”
She blushed instantly but was told by the police officer: “This is a political question, you don’t have to answer.”
I did not think she would have an answer for this very direct question but I wanted to ask about the obvious allegations that linked her congregation with one of the most traumatic times in Turkey’s history.
She said they could always call me and invite me around for a visit.
I knew that call would never come but still gave my telephone number before she walked back into the building.
As I continued my conversation with the policeman, I tried to look at people who stood in front of the inner gate of the mosque, trying to see a reaction. Knowing now I was from Turkey’s Anadolu Agency, I saw a sudden change in looks.
I would really like to go inside and hear the Friday sermon but I thought it would be a bit too much considering the circumstances and possible hostilities that may target a journalist looking into allegations of links with the brutal failed coup.
I thanked the policeman who continued to accompany me as I took a couple more photos from the other side of the road.
It was a day of journalistic investigation and I found out that the Gulenists’ meeting point in Edmonton was being closely protected by local police.
It started raining.
I took the bus for central London with a lot more questions on the allegations, police protection and freedom of the press in my mind.