Exclusive: Turkey, Kosovo violated fundamental rights of expelled teachers, UN body says

The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) has concluded that the arrest, detention and forceful transfer of six Turkish teachers by Kosovar and Turkish state agents in Kosovo on March 29, 2018 was arbitrary and in violation of international human rights norms and standards, according to a press release seen by Turkish Minute on Wednesday.

Kahraman Demirez, Mustafa Erdem, Hasan Hüseyin Günakan, Yusuf Karabina, Osman Karakaya and Cihan Özkan were arrested in Kosovo at Turkey’s request in March 2018 over alleged links to schools financed by the Gülen movement and a failed coup in 2016. The Gülen movement denies any involvement.

WGAD held that Kosovar and Turkish authorities’ deprivation of liberty of six Turkish citizens was in contravention of the right to equality and non-discrimination, the right to life, liberty and security, the right to an effective remedy, the right to freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention, the right to a fair trial and the right to freedom of opinion and expression.

The UN group called on Ankara to release the six individuals immediately, and the Turkish and Kosovar governments to accord the victims an enforceable right to compensation and other reparations, in accordance with international law.

“In the current context of the global coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic and the threat that it poses in places of detention, the Working Group calls upon the Government of Turkey to take urgent action to ensure the immediate release of the six individuals,” the press release of WGAD read.

According to the UN report, the entire operation was planned and carried out by the Kosovo Intelligence Agency, which had assumed police authority and taken control of police offices, contrary to domestic and international legal procedure standards.

“Agency agents also issued orders to border control officers at the airport and it was the Agency, not the Ministry of the Interior, that obtained the airplane tickets and handled all the logistics of the transfer.”

Mr. Demirez, Mr. Erdem, Mr. Günakan, Mr. Karabina, Mr. Karakaya and Mr. Özkan were handed over to the Turkish agents at Pristina International Airport, the report said.

Days after the six men were expelled, Kosovo’s prime minister, Ramush Haradinaj, dismissed the country’s interior minister and secret service chief because he was not told the six would be deported to Turkey.

A parliament commission report concluded that the deportation was illegal and that the constitution was violated 31 times during the arrests.

Kosovo’s opposition has accused President Hashim Thaci of ordering the deportations because of his close relations with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Thaci has denied any wrongdoing.

Günakan, one of the six, has been sentenced to eight years in prison.

Ankara said the six were recruiters for a network run by the US-based cleric Fethullah Gülen and had helped people accused of links to his network leave Turkey during a security crackdown in which tens of thousands of people were sacked or jailed.

At its peak, the Gülen movement operated schools in 160 countries, from Afghanistan to the United States. Since the coup attempt, Turkey has pressured allies to shut down Gülen-run establishments.
The post Exclusive: Turkey, Kosovo violated fundamental rights of expelled teachers, UN body says appeared first on Hizmet News.
Source: Hizmetnews

Global Terrorism and Islamic Radicalization: Analyses from Fethullah Gulen’s Perspective

Dr. Recep Dogan

First published on December 2017

In order to protect one’s faith, person, family, property and land against aggressors, Muslims can resort to physical force but it is one of the many meanings of jihad. However, declaring a war against an enemy can only be done by a government and if individuals or groups resort such method, it is considered as terror and Islam applies the severest punishment to prevent it. Prominent Islamic scholar and community leader Fethullah Gulen argues that no Muslim can approve of any terrorist activity and terror has no place in a quest to achieve independence or salvation for it takes the lives of innocent people.12 He brings some evidences from the Qur’an to support his view:

“He who kills a soul unless it be (in legal punishment) for murder or for causing disorder and corruption on the earth will be as if he had killed all humankind; and he who saves a life will be as if he had saved the lives of all humankind.”13 Even when Muslims have to resort war to defend their country, Prophet Muhammad brought many limitations to war although it is for a just cause:

“Do not betray, inflict injustice, plunder, or defile the bodies; do not kill children, the elderly, or women; do not cut down the date orchards or burn them; do not cut down trees that bear fruit; do not kill sheep, cattle, or camels unless it is for food. You may come across people who have retreated into monasteries on your way; do not touch them or interfere with their worship.”14 

Gulen maintains that such commandments are the historical records that warn the heads of states against any kind of injustice and reminds them of that they will be taken to account on the Judgment Day for their acts.15 However, extreme groups find young minds and radicalize them to employ their terrorist agenda. While imposing their extreme ideas, they misinterpret the Qur’an and Sunnah by their partial approach and disconnecting religious texts from their context. Moreover, they use Islamic concepts such as jihad to mask their terrorist actions and increase the support of the general Muslim population.

Islam has always favored defense over offence and the importance of mercy towards enemies, therefore Fethullah Gulen has repeatedly stated that “a real Muslim” who understood Islam in every aspect could not be a terrorist.24 He stressed on the fact that terrorism must be condemned without any excuses. He even labelled the suicide bombers as the companions of hellfire. However, religious extremists are ignorant of their faith, therefore they have hijacked Islam just as it has periodically occurred with Christianity and other religions throughout history.25

Gulen’s Statements on Recent Terror Attacks

Gulen deems terrorism as the greatest blow to peace, democracy, and humanity 38 and he always condemns any terrorist activity no matter by whom it is carried out or for what purpose it is committed. He issues statements in this regard on various media platforms. Upon the recent terrorist attack that took place in Paris, he stated,

“I strongly condemn the terrorist attacks on French magazine Charlie Hebdo and in Paris suburbs. These revolting acts of terrorism are deplorable – they serve no purpose but to bring about destruction, sorrow and grief. I reiterate my condemnation of all forms of terror regardless of its perpetrators or their stated purposes. I share my deep condolences with the victims‟ families, loved ones and the people of France.”39

Gulen sees radical groups a real threat for the entire world and therefore openly rejects their claims on the basis of primary Islamic sources. His statement on ISIS terror group was published in New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Wall Street Journal and Los Angeles Times on 22 August 2014. In his statement, he used very strong language to condemn their evil acts:

“I deplore the brutal atrocities being committed by the ISIS terrorist group hiding behind a false religious rhetoric and join the people of conscience from around the world in calling for these perpetrators to immediately cease their cruel and inhuman acts. Any form of attack, suppression or persecution of minorities or innocent civilians is an act that contradicts the principles of the Qur’an and the tradition of our Prophet upon whom be peace and blessings. ISIS members are either completely ignorant of the spirit of Islam and its blessed messenger, or their actions are designed to serve their individual interests or those of their political masters. Regardless, their actions represent those of a terrorist group and they should be labelled as such and be brought to justice.40 Gulen published very strong condemnation message when September 11 terror attack happened in USA. He deemed the terror attack as the most bloody, condemnable one, and an assault against world peace as well as against universal democratic and humanistic values.41 He stated that those who perpetrated this atrocity can only be considered as being the most brutal people in the world.”42

Violence is a Disease

Gulen deems violence as a disease that can be observed in every corner of the world.43 Every kind of murder is accursed no matter who commits it. Terror cannot be rationalized on any basis. Insulting Islamic values does not legitimize the murder; therefore, Muslims cannot support any terror activity in their heart. Gulen argues that it is antithetical to the creed and conduct of a believer to say, “so-and-so was an enemy of religion, of faith, of Islam, of the Qur‟an; it is good that he was killed, for he deserved it anyway”.44 Gulen believes that life is a sacred trust and it is necessary to protect all living creatures. His view on life and its value can be understood better from his following statements:

“In my lifetime, I have never deliberately and knowingly stepped on even an ant. I did not see or speak to a friend of mine for months, for breaking the backbone of a snake. I have believed in the rights of every living being, that all of them have a place in the ecosystem. I have stated that we have no right or authority to harm a living being. It is a fact that the most honorable and most sacred of all creatures is the human being. I have repeatedly stated that those who murder under these pretexts or intentions cannot enter Paradise, and cannot be considered Muslims. This is not my personal opinion. It is the voice, expression, and breath of the ethos of Islam; this belief is part of our nature.”45

In order to support his view, Gulen brings the statement of the famous Qur’anic exegete Abd Allah ibn Abbas on this verse. For him, the repentance of those who kill a believer purposefully will be denied, and they will be doomed to eternal Hell.47 Gulen concludes that considering the life of human kind is the most honorable, Islam regulated many rulings to protect it against any kind of violence and harm.

He severely condemns terrorist people who use vehicles loaded with bombs and kill innocent people in the name of Islam. For him, this is completely against the message of the Qur’an and the tradition of the Prophet and such events truly embarrasses and grieves Muslims.64 He maintains that Muslims must always act in compliance with the principles of Islam, no matter what the circumstances are and never forget that lawful ends must only be sought through lawful means.65 Killing innocent people is a grave sin in Islam, therefore Imam Abu Ḫanīfa (669-767 CE), the founder of Ḫanafī school of thought ruled that it is not lawful to march upon a group of people if their intention is not known.66

Gulen argues that Prophet Muhammad was the man of love and peace and his mission was to communicate the faith as he had been enjoined by God, therefore, he visited the most hard-hearted unbelievers many times without displaying any resentment.67 He wanted all people should be able to feel Paradise in their hearts by inviting them to the faith; „pronounce there is no deity but God and be saved.‟68 In order to support his argument Gulen mentions the conquest of Makka by the Prophet and his attitude towards his enemies. People of Makka persecuted Muslims for long time and killed some but now they were defeated and in fear. However, the Prophet gathered them and addressed them as follows:

“I say to you as Joseph (Prophet) once said to his brothers. There is no blame for the actions that you have performed before. God will forgive you, too. He is the Most Merciful of the Merciful. Go, you are all free.”69 He forgave them all even his bitterest enemies and did not force them to accept Islam. He left them free to choose whatever they could believe. Another time, he raised his hands to pray for those who stoned him, broke his teeth, wounded his cheek, and caused his head to be covered in blood: “My God, grant guidance to my people, for they do not know!”70 When we examine the evil acts of ISIS, it is clear that there is no connection or similarity between their horrible crimes and the noble act of the Prophet. Therefore, the terrorist groups who use Islamic concepts such as jihad to attract young minds delude people and blacken the bright face of Islam.

In order to stop their delusions, there is an unquestionable need for a true leader who is able to fulfill the hope and aspirations of individuals, groups of followers and communities, whilst respecting the followers of other faiths, people of diverse cultures and ethnic backgrounds.71 In this regard, Gulen and his followers showed remarkable creativity and activism with regard to interfaith dialogue in world politics, establishing over 50 interfaith centers in the United States alone.72 For Gulen, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, and even Hinduism and other world religions, accept the same divine source for themselves, and they, with the nontheistic religions such as Buddhism, “pursue the same goal”.73

Source: Journal of Islamic Studies and Culture. December 2017, Vol. 5, No. 2, pp. 1-12

Note: Please visit the articles original web page for the footnotes.

Dr. Recep Dogan: Center For Islamic Studies and Civilization, Faculty of Arts, Charles Sturt University, Sydney, Australia
The post Global Terrorism and Islamic Radicalization: Analyses from Fethullah Gulen’s Perspective appeared first on Gulen Movement.
Source: Gulenmovement

Sacked policeman’s grim death sparks debate on COVID-19 data in Turkish prisons

The pictures showing the grim death of Mustafa Kabakçıoğlu, a police officer sacked with an emergency decree in 2016, have sparked debate on the conditions in Turkish prisons amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Media reports said that the police officer, who had been in jail for four years, repeatedly asked for treatment for his deteriorating health, but his transfer to a hospital was denied.

The pictures showing the grim death of a police officer sacked with an emergency decree have sparked debate on the conditions in Turkish prisons amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Pictures from Mustafa Kabakçıoğlu’s prison cell in the northern province of Gümüşhane showed his dead body on a plastic chair in filthy surroundings, prompting deputies to question prison conditions.

Media reports said that the police officer, who had been in jail for four years, repeatedly asked for treatment for his deteriorating health, but his transfer to a hospital was denied.

Kabakçıoğlu, who suffered from asthma and diabetes, was put in a quarantine cell on Aug. 20 on suspicion of COVID-19 after he started coughing and stayed in the cell alone for nine days until authorities discovered his dead body on Aug. 29.

The police officer was arrested on July 26, 2016 and was dismissed from his post as part of a state of emergency decree issued on Sept. 1, 2016.

Turkey declared a months-long state of emergency following the July 15, 2016 failed coup attempt that’s widely believed to have been masterminded by U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen. *

Thousands were dismissed from their posts as part of the decrees issued during the emergency rule, which critics say was used by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) to silence dissent.

The government says that those dismissed are linked to the Gülen movement.

Those sacked with state of emergency decrees are trying to be reinstated to their jobs amid Turkey’s slow functioning judicial system.

Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Gülizar Biçer Karaca has asked the Justice Ministry to reveal the data on COVID-19 in prisons and whether negligence lead to Kabakçıoğlu’s death.

“Why is the Justice Ministry silent on what is happening in prisons during the pandemic and why doesn’t it share data since July?” Karaca said in her parliamentary question on Oct. 15.

“Kabakçıoğlu’s death shows that the pandemic conditions in prisons are not in line with human dignity,” she added.

She also asked the ministry to explain the picture that shows Kabakçıoğlu’s dead body on a chair.

“Why was he found sitting on a chair?” Karaca asked.

Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputy Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu addressed Justice Minister Abdülhamit Gül on Twitter.

“His death is filled with negligence, have you heard?” asked Gergerlioğlu.

Following criticism, Gümüşhane Public Prosecutor’s Office released a statement on Kabakçıoğlu’s death on Oct. 14, saying that the deceased officer didn’t want to go to a hospital.

It also said that an investigation was launched into the publishing of pictures from inside prison.

The Justice Ministry on Oct. 15 said that two inspectors were assigned to look into whether there was any negligence in Kabakçıoğlu’s death.

* Fethullah Gulen strongly denies this grave accusation and calls the United Nations to form an international commission to investigate Turkey’s controversial coup attempt.
The post Sacked policeman’s grim death sparks debate on COVID-19 data in Turkish prisons appeared first on Hizmet News.
Source: Hizmetnews

Dissidents of the Turkish government are living in fear in Canada

Mehmet Bastug and Davut Akca

Turkey’s long arm and espionage activities against dissidents living in exile in Canada has become a growing concern. As revealed in a startling recent news report, 15 Turkish-Canadians have been targeted by the Turkish government within the scope of a “terrorism” investigation.

Needless to say, the term “terrorist” has become a commonly applied label in Turkey describing almost all opponents of the Turkish government, in and out of the country. Turkey’s operations in Canada have an impact that goes beyond its immediate targets. Such planned and organized espionage activities could pose a danger to public safety.

In the last several years, the Turkish state engaged in a three-phase campaign abroad to silence its own citizens who are critical of the government:

Propaganda activities through Turkish state entities and pro-government civil society organizations to discredit opposition groups;Intelligence-gathering and espionage activities;Intimidation, threats and abduction.

Defaming dissidents

Turkish authorities have been organizing defamatory propaganda activities against the dissidents.

The Telegraph in the U.K., for example, recently reported that mosques and community centres with links to Turkey in Britain are used to disperse anti-Kurdish propaganda. Similarly, as posted on the Facebook page of the Turkish Canadian Religious Foundation, the religious affairs office of the Turkish Consulate General in Toronto organized a mosque visit and delivered booklets against opposition groups, apparently to demonize them in the eyes of other Islamic groups in greater Toronto area.

In the last several years, Turkey has been aggressively gathering intelligence about its citizens living in exile. It’s also been using certain organizations and communities as its eyes and ears to spy on dissidents.

An example of this is DITIB, a state-funded Turkish-Islamic union that runs more than 900 mosques in Germany. Imams of DITIB were accused by German authorities of gathering intelligence about regime critics on behalf of the Turkish government.

Such activities are being watched by authorities with concern and are believed to pose “a danger to the internal peace.”

Threats, disappearances, torture

Many opponents have been the victims of enforced disappearance. As reported by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, dissidents on Turkey have been forcibly disappeared and tortured by government agents. There are also cases where they were abducted abroad, particularly in countries ruled by corrupt and authoritarian regimes.

Haaretz reported that the current Turkish government snatched over 100 dissidents from other countries and brought them back to Turkey. The recent revelations from an imprisoned Turkish mob leader in Argentina on how some Turkish government officials had recruited him to kill American pastor Andrew Brunson demonstrated that mafia-type government operations aren’t rare.

Serkan Kurtulus, a reputed mob boss said in an interview on July 22 that he was asked by the Turkish gov’t to murder American Pastor Andrew Brunson.“Turkish authorities wanted to kill Brunson and blame it on Gulen,” he claimed || https://t.co/QQ7G8qwo9p pic.twitter.com/SgLbaDcE0e— Turkey Purge (@TurkeyPurge) July 28, 2020

Intimidation is another tactic used to spy on opponents. Turkish agents threatened regime critics to convince them to provide information about targeted groups and organizations abroad. Those whose immediate family members are still in Turkey are particularly targeted.

According to a recording obtained by Radio Sweden, the chairman of a lobby organization with ties to the Turkish state told a member of the Gulen movement — a group that has become a target of the government — that his wife, who was in Turkey at the time, would be arrested if he does not co-operate with Turkish authorities.

Fear of abduction

In a recent research project with two colleagues, we examined how the activities of Turkish authorities in Canada influenced the daily lives and social interactions of dissidents.

The research revealed their fear of the Turkish state. Our findings indicate they’ve made significant changes in their lives to protect themselves. These changes include moving to another neighbourhood or city, changing daily routines and avoiding being in certain places and attending group activities.

They are also subjected to hate speech by their fellow nationals who have emotional or material ties with Turkish government. As a result of their experiences, they prefer not to connect with other Turkish people because they fear they’ll be spied on, abducted or forcibly returned Turkey.

For some dissidents, the fear of being oppressed by the Turkish government persists even in Canada. However, many of them view Canada as a safe country where they can raise their voices through democratic channels. They also hope that Turkey will ultimately abandon its aggressive policies against opposing voices and respect human rights in the future.

Mehmet Bastug, Lecturer, Criminology, Lakehead University

Davut Akca, Researcher, Forensic Behavioural Science and Justice Studies, University of Saskatchewan
The post Dissidents of the Turkish government are living in fear in Canada appeared first on Hizmet News.
Source: Hizmetnews

Turkish Food Festival seeks to teach Greenville about Turkey’s culture and cuisine

Alex Cooper

Since 2016, the Turkish Food Festival has brought a variety of Turkish dishes and cultural activities to Greenville. This year, though, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the festival will be serving food in a drive-thru at the Phillis Wheatley Center while hosting virtual activities from 11 a.m.-4 p.m on Saturday, Sept. 26.

The Atlantic Institute, The Istanbul Center and Upstate International will partner with local churches to help put together the event highlighting the Turkish American population in the Upstate. There is a corresponding event in Columbia, South Carolina, each year as well.

“We thought that introducing our community to the variety of [Turkish] foods through the festival will be excellent, and it will increase more awareness about different cultures. It will help people to understand about what’s going on in Turkey,” says Akif Aydin, president of the Istanbul Center. Aydin notes Turkey’s worsening record on human rights. 

Virtually, Aydin says there will be some cultural activities, including art, music and dance to highlight Turkish culture. 

Over the last few years, the event has seen a couple of thousand people participate, says Aydin. While this year will be different from years prior, Aydin still hopes to see as many people as possible come out and learn more about the country that seems to always be found in East-meets-West and Europe-meets-Asia discourses. 

Since 2016, the Turkish Food Festival has brought a variety of Turkish dishes and cultural activities to Greenville.

The menu

During this drive-thru festival, individuals can order a variety of meat dishes for $10, which include gyros, grilled chicken and kofte, a Turkish meatball dish. Side combo boxes featuring dolma, sweet peppers with rice, sarma, stuffed grape leaves, eggplant salad or chickpea salad will be on sale for $8. Dessert boxes, including baklava, will also be available for $8. Those who to go the festival will also have the opportunity to order Turkish tea for $2 and Turkish coffee served with Turkish delight for $3. 

Individuals can pre-order their food via the festival’s website at atlantic-institute.square.site. 

Turkish Food Festival Drive-Thru and Live Streaming Event

Saturday, Sept. 26, 2020

11 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Phillis Wheatley Center
The post Turkish Food Festival seeks to teach Greenville about Turkey’s culture and cuisine appeared first on Hizmet News.
Source: Hizmetnews

Demonization of the Gülen movement unfair and baseless

Prof. Mehmet Efe Çaman

The Gülen movement is one of two marginalized groups in present-day Turkey along with the with Kurds. However, the situation was quite different 10 years ago. The people who launched a fierce campaign to “finish off” the Gülen group in today’s Turkey once considered it their closest ally.

The politicians who currently rule the country used to send their own children to schools run by the movement. They were subscribers of the Zaman daily. They often appeared on Gülen-affiliated TV channels, calling Fethullah Gülen “Hocaefendi” – a title his followers use to refer to him with reverence.

Whenever someone criticized Gülen, the same politicians rushed to denounce those critics even before his own followers did. These politicians issued commemorative coins for the Turkish Olympiads, a series of annual cultural events the Gülen movement had been organizing. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan gave a speech to thousands of attendees during one of these events and invited Gülen back to Turkey after he expressed his “longing” in the stands of an Istanbul stadium in June 2012.

The Gülen movement supported the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) for a long time. For the movement, which had never engaged with any political parties, to follow along after a political party could sound hollow. But it’s not fair to ignore the irreconcilable differences between the AKP’s discourse, political goals and actions in its first decade, namely the 2001-2011 period, and the same party’s discourse and actions today.

Back then the AKP used to be a reformist political party striving to accomplish European Union reforms in its first years; the party seemed to embrace liberal democracy and uphold the rule of law. Not only the Gülen movement but also liberals, Kurds, minorities, leftists and pro-EU circles supported the AKP in those years. On the other hand, some of the other political parties were dragging their feet when it came to incorporating EU reforms in the same period.

For instance, nationalists in the Republican People’s Party (CHP) regarded EU reforms aiming to improve the country’s institutional democracy as concessions given to the West. Therefore, the CHP never supported the AKP in its steps to realize reforms. Likewise, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) detested the EU reforms. The MHP opposed the progressive agenda – particularly the intention to resolve the Kurdish issue politically rather than militarily – just as the nationalists in the CHP did.

The Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and Kurdish political circles were happy about the AKP’s pro-EU political stance. A positive step to direct dialogue between the Turkish state and the insurgent Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) gratified the Kurdish politicians. They saw the move as the most critical opportunity in Turkey’s history to resolve the Kurdish issue. In brief, blaming the Gülen movement for supporting the AKP, thus paving the way for today’s AKP regime, is manifestly ill-founded and unfair.

The AKP considered the Gülen movement in those years a fairly legitimate element of Turkey’s civil society. On the other hand, the Gülen movement regarded the AKP as a genuinely democratic, favorable political party. These approaches set up a natural plane of cooperation.

Zaman Daily Broke the Media Monopoly

The Gülen movement had a certain influence on Turkish politics between 2002 and 2011, which was possible with the help of the group’s human resources and its power in the media sector. As a civil society movement with its primary focus on education, the movement gave weight to establishing schools, procuring scholarships for high-ranking students and founding universities.

Its power in the media came into effect as its several media outlets, including the Zaman daily, offered an alternative to the settled secular/Kemalist elite media. There used to be a lack of alternatives in the Turkish media landscape due to that Kemalist monopoly, but Zaman broke the ice. Zaman not only opened its doors to writers from the movement but also to liberal-democrat columnists. This unique selling proposition ensured that the Zaman daily’s audience was as diverse as it gets. Apart from the followers of the movement, the newspaper attracted readers from other religious and liberal groups.

Between 2002 and 2011, the primary motivation shared by both the AKP and the Gülen movement was to make Turkey a democratic country. Both the AKP and the Gülen movement had a strong view to ending the military-bureaucratic veto regime that had presided over the country since its foundation and of upholding the rule of law based on EU-style liberal democratic principles. In fact the closest the country ever approached a functioning liberal democracy was without any doubt the period between 2002 and 2011.

It would not be wrong to claim that the modern political history of Turkey is a history of a corrupt partisan spoils system. The AKP has also worked to set up its people in public office, which is not odd. All ruling parties in Turkey have attempted to install their own people in the bureaucracy. For many, “getting into the body” of this giant and powerful “Leviathan” was the only way to avoid the Turkish state’s wrath. This understanding is the core of the political fight in Turkey’s history.

While the AKP started employing people close to its Islamist ideology, it also embraced the seasoned human resources of the Gülen movement, considering the group “on the same page” with them and sharing a similar world view. As a matter of fact, the Gülen movement had much more qualified human resources than the other religious or Islamist groups. Verily, even if the AKP did not prioritize Gülen followers in the public sphere, the percentage of public officers close to the movement increased over the years, anyway.

The Gülen Movement did not Infiltrate the State

The Gülen group did not infiltrate the bureaucracy but participated in it. If there is to be a “responsible” party, then it is the AKP government that made the political choice to hire the movement’s followers. Besides, it’s relevant to highlight that employment requirements in the state are designated in the law. And the government is fully responsible for the hiring process in the bureaucracy and public sector. Accordingly, just as the constitutional order determines in any democratic country, any citizen regardless of her or his personal worldview can become a civil servant in Turkey. Discrimination based on non-objective criteria cannot be done.

What is important is whether a person is qualified according to objective job requirements or not. The AKP has been the sole decision-maker for years. If there was any irregularity during the hiring of skilled employees, the responsibility is with the AKP. The AKP should have presented objective evidence and started an investigation regarding any alleged extralegal practice during the hiring processes in the Turkish public sector for which it was constitutionally responsible.

It’s unacceptable to persecute a whole group based on unfounded allegations nourished by persisting bias. However, this is what we witness happening in Turkey today. Allegations about the movement that it “stole” the questions of some centrally run entrance exams to register in a university or hold public positions are widely accepted in Turkish society, whereas the claimants have yet to put the evidence on the table to back these allegations. Numerous people have been labeled and dismissed from their posts with presidential decrees over baseless allegations.

For sure, prosecutors should investigate the claim that “the Gülenists stole the exam questions.” But they must set forth evidence if a crime was committed, and if it was, who committed it and whether or not it was organized or personal misconduct. However, we have a “small problem” in that context: Today’s Turkey, where the judiciary is de facto entirely under the government’s control and the constitutional order is not abided by, doesn’t facilitate fair and lawful investigations. The very biased and widely accepted discourse claims that all “Gülenists in public service” acquired their posts by “stealing the questions.”

This conviction without evidence and a trial cannot be questioned today, since everybody who criticizes it is labeled as a “Gülenist” and purged. Ankara’s mass crackdown on the alleged followers or supporters of the Gülen movement includes dismissing and terrorizing hundreds of thousands of people without evidence of a crime. People are simply persecuted and are expected to “prove their innocence” as in Third Reich Gestapo procedures.

Claims of Conspiracy against the Military

Some circles in Turkey claim that the Gülen movement conspired against the Turkish military by masterminding corrupted investigations such as the Ergenekon, Balyoz (Sledgehammer), Sarikiz and Military Espionage cases. They claim that the criminal investigations in these cases and court procedures were fabricated plots to topple then-Prime Minister Erdoğan. Those circles deliberately overlook the fact that these cases were based on serious evidence, including voice recordings of military meetings and official documents. They manipulate the public on purpose through massive propaganda to make people forget about Erdoğan and his cabinet’s open support for those legal cases. They attempt to artificially correlate lawsuits against the alleged coup plotters and corruption cases of December 17, 2013, which came up with massive corruption and money-laundering allegations against AKP ministers and Erdoğan’s inner circle.

The conspiracy theory of the Turkish government that has become the mainstream perception in Turkey claims that the Gülen movement was the mastermind of all of those cases. However, there are some basic questions to be asked in order to understand what happened in those legal investigations.

1-  How can anyone hide the concrete shreds of evidence in the Ergenekon cases?

2-  How can anyone ignore the concrete shreds of evidence in corruption investigations targeting AKP officials?

In a bid to whitewash the existing evidence against them in the Ergenekon cases and the December 17, 2013 corruption cases, the government and the suspected individuals and groups assert that the Gülen movement launched those investigations and that it was a setup. Their cooperation against and targeting the Gülen movement as a scapegoat is based on their common interest to hide the ugly truth.

What is Terrorism? Who is a Terrorist?

The AKP claims that the Gülen movement is a terrorist organization. Calling dissidents “terrorists” and cracking down on everybody who disagrees with them is widespread in authoritarian or semi-authoritarian regimes. In fact, under the rule of law non-violent groups cannot be accused of being terrorists since resorting to or complimenting violence is the essential decomposition point separating a terrorism act/group from the others.

The AKP blames the Gülen movement for instigating a July 2016 abortive coup. But the Turkish government still has not been able to prove the affiliation of the soldiers involved in the coup with the Gülen movement. It has not been able to prove whether any soldier received instructions from the movement. Moreover, it’s unclear if the coup of July 15, 2016 was a real military coup or a government-controlled staging. No members or followers of the Gülen movement were involved in any violent act even after hundreds of thousands of them were detained, arrested and dismissed from their jobs. Countless criminal investigations have failed to find a weapon or object to use as a weapon during raids on the homes of the group’s alleged members. Is the Turkish government seriously expecting that the whole world is supposed to believe there are (imaginary) “terrorists without weapons” simply because it wants it to be so?

“‘FETO’ Acronym is conjured up to Reinforce the Witch-Hunt

There is no evidence showing the Gülen movement is an organized crime group or a terrorist one. The movement is a scapegoat in today’s Turkey, pointed to as a target both by the state (regime) and the opposition.

The grass roots of the AKP, MHP, CHP, IYI Party and partly the HDP support this idea. The AKP hates the movement for two reasons and wants to suppress it. 1- Erdogan laid the responsibility for the corruption investigation into himself and his party at the Gülen movement’s door. 2- The AKP saw the movement as a rival. The nationalist MHP hates the movement due to the Gülenists’ pro-EU and pro-West positions. The secular CHP’s nationalist/Kemalist base hates the Gülen movement due to their bias against all Islamists of non-secular groups and considers it a radical, fundamentalist and anti-Atatürk religious sect. The CHP accuses the Gülen movement of masterminding the coup-plotting cases such as Ergenekon, Sledgehammer and Sarikiz. The pro-Kurdish HDP doesn’t want to be entirely excluded from the “state” and uses anti-Gülenist discourse from time to time. And the Gülen movement’s cultural Turkish nationalist stance in the past disturbs supporters of the HDP. 

No doubt the Gülen movement should evaluate its positions in the past in light of allegations about itself and initiate a purification. The mass punishing and unlawful prosecution it faces, on the other hand, are violations of fundamental rights. It’s time for all social factions in Turkey to question human rights violations and the discrimination and persecution the Gülen movement faces.

Source: Turkish Minute, August 26, 2020.
The post Demonization of the Gülen movement unfair and baseless appeared first on Gulen Movement.
Source: Gulenmovement

Did the Gülen Movement Infiltrate the State?

The Gülen group did not infiltrate the bureaucracy but participated in it. If there is to be a “responsible” party, then it is the AKP government that made the political choice to hire the movement’s followers. Besides, it’s relevant to highlight that employment requirements in the state are designated in the law. And the government is fully responsible for the hiring process in the bureaucracy and public sector. Accordingly, just as the constitutional order determines in any democratic country, any citizen regardless of her or his personal worldview can become a civil servant in Turkey. Discrimination based on non-objective criteria cannot be done.

What is important is whether a person is qualified according to objective job requirements or not. The AKP has been the sole decision-maker for years. If there was any irregularity during the hiring of skilled employees, the responsibility is with the AKP. The AKP should have presented objective evidence and started an investigation regarding any alleged extralegal practice during the hiring processes in the Turkish public sector for which it was constitutionally responsible.

It’s unacceptable to persecute a whole group based on unfounded allegations nourished by persisting bias. However, this is what we witness happening in Turkey today. Allegations about the movement that it “stole” the questions of some centrally run entrance exams to register in a university or hold public positions are widely accepted in Turkish society, whereas the claimants have yet to put the evidence on the table to back these allegations. Numerous people have been labeled and dismissed from their posts with presidential decrees over baseless allegations.

For sure, prosecutors should investigate the claim that “the Gülenists stole the exam questions.” But they must set forth evidence if a crime was committed, and if it was, who committed it and whether or not it was organized or personal misconduct. However, we have a “small problem” in that context: Today’s Turkey, where the judiciary is de facto entirely under the government’s control and the constitutional order is not abided by, doesn’t facilitate fair and lawful investigations. The very biased and widely accepted discourse claims that all “Gülenists in public service” acquired their posts by “stealing the questions.”

This conviction without evidence and a trial cannot be questioned today, since everybody who criticizes it is labeled as a “Gülenist” and purged. Ankara’s mass crackdown on the alleged followers or supporters of the Gülen movement includes dismissing and terrorizing hundreds of thousands of people without evidence of a crime. People are simply persecuted and are expected to “prove their innocence” as in Third Reich Gestapo procedures.

Source: Excerpt from an article, titled “Demonization of the Gülen movement unfair and baseless,” by Prof. Mehmet Efe Çaman, published on Turkish Minute on August 26, 2020.
The post Did the Gülen Movement Infiltrate the State? appeared first on Gulen Movement.
Source: Gulenmovement

Chestnut Retreat Center offers a look inside their Saylorsburg facility and its mission

Brian Myszkowski

Monroe County United and the Chestnut Retreat Center offered the public a window into the world of Fethullah Gulen and his followers in an effort to build bridges with the local community during a special online event on Sunday evening.

Hosted by Monroe County United, “Meet our Muslim Neighbors” welcomed intrigued individuals to hear from members of the Saylorsburg center who explained the ideals of their movement, the ways in which they utilize their facilities, and how they contribute to the community as a whole.

The center, formerly known as the Golden Generation Worship and Retreat Center, was founded in 1993 by New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania-based Turkish-American Muslims inspired by the Hizmet movement.

“Hizmet is a Turkish term which quite literally means ‘service,’ so the Hizmet Movement is centered on serving humanity,” Busra T, a CRC volunteer who handled the first portion of the evening’s presentation, said. “Hizmet is a transnational civil society initiative that advocates for the ideals that human rights, equal opportunity, democracy, nonviolence, and the emphatic acceptance of religious and cultural diversity.”

The movement began in the 1970s, growing and broadening its mission across the globe. Though religion is a core element of the movement, Busra noted that it is not restricted solely to Muslims – all religions are welcome to participate.

“CRC is a nonprofit organization that organizes educational programs, offers a space for spiritual development and religious activities, that provides community services to both the Hizmet community and the larger community. CRC also organizes interfaith and intercultural programs.”

From 1993 through 1999, the retreat mainly functioned as a summer camp that focused on “sciences and spirituality.”

READ MORE: Gulen followers encourage education, awareness from Saylorsburg

“1999 was a turning point for the center, with the arrival of Mr. Fetullah Gulen,” Busra said. “It started serving more as a retreat center, and welcoming visitors who came to came to see Mr. Gulen from all around the world on a reservation basis.”

Gulen, who Busra described as a “Muslim scholar, a preacher and social advocate whose decades-long commitment to education, altruistic community service, and interfaith harmony has inspired millions around the world” has helped to adapt the Quran for a modern audience.

“In 2016, there was a staged coup, which the Turkish government has chosen Mr. Gulen as the scapegoat to some other illegal activities, and therefore, CRC has been receiving some threats related to it,” Busra said. “Mr. Gulen has consistently denied any involvement and has condemned the coup even as it was happening.”

Busra said the allegations were baseless, but by 2016, pressure from the Turkish government necessitated the hiring of security guards for the gated center.

What sets Gulen apart from other traditional Muslim leaders, Busra said, is his devotion to the education and empowerment of women. Furthermore, diversity is a central theme in his ideology, Busra said.

“One of the core tenets of his teachings is the celebration of religious, cultural, social and political diversity,” Busra said. “Gulen considers this diversity divine will, and he has a famous saying, and I quote: ‘You must have a seat for every person in your heart.’”

Gulen has been commended by Christian and Jewish leaders in Turkey, and even had a personal audience with the late Pope John Paul II. In 2008, Gulen was included in Foreign Policy and Prospect magazines’ joint poll of the “Top 100 Public Intellectuals.” In 2011, he was awarded the 2011 peace award from the East West Institute. In 2015, the Martin Luther King Jr. International Chapel bestowed the Gandhi King Ikeda Peace Award on Gulen.

CRC outreach coordinator Ali Ak offered a rare glimpse inside CRC during his portion of the presentation, showcasing the two central buildings and the eight guest houses, along with the surrounding “natural beauty” offered by nature.

On of the main questions that often arise, Ak said, is how these facilities are used.

“There are some misconceptions about what goes on behind the doors at CRC, but we have always been, and will always be transparent about its function,” Ak said. “We can categorize the activities of CRC into the following groups: First, accommodation for the guests; second, education of the community; third, dialogue and civic engagement; and finally, social responsibility projects.”

Each of the guest houses has about five guest rooms, which are able to accommodate a few people or a small family, Ak said. A commercial kitchen and large-scale dining room provide meals for guests.

“The guests usually stay one or two weeks,” Ak said. “The majority of the guests are the participants of the Hizmet Movement. Many non-participants also visit the center and stay a few days for various reasons, such as a retreat, participating in the activities, and visiting Mr. Gulen.”

With those accommodations addressing physical needs, Ak moved on to discuss how education at CRC “feed(s) the soul.”

“In Mr. Gulen’s philosophy, education is vital,” Ak said, noting that learning helps one “free your mind from many misunderstandings” that plague the world.

“The most important educational activity that CRC has is what we call ‘Halaqa,’ the Study Circle,” Ak said.

Gulen mainly instructs visitors – mostly graduates focused on Islamic studies – on classical Islamic texts, seven days a week. But the circle is not strictly limited to religion, Ak said.

“In the circle, in addition to classical Arabic texts, some other books on psychology, sociology, philosophy and science have been summarized and discussed by these students,” Ak said.

Gulen also provides sermons on Fridays and Sunday, depending upon the state of his health, and those events are not exclusive – community members are welcome to join as well.

“You may attend these services too,” Ak said. “Just keep in mind that you need to make reservations, and also, the sermons are in Turkish.”

Those sermons are posted online at herkul.org, a website that features content in both Turkish and English – though Ak advised that articles in Turkish are more prevalent at the moment, though the English side is improving.

Outside of that, special youth sermons are conducted on a monthly basis, and groups often come together for books discussions and summer and weekend schooling sessions.

“There might be some misconceptions that these people live in isolation, but this isn’t really the case,” Ak said. “The truth is that CRC has been very active in terms of outreach and civic engagement. Every year, it organizes Thanksgiving and Ramadan dinners. Some of you may have attended these dinners. Older neighbors and friends are invited to these events. Next time you see a post about a dinner here, just come. You will not regret it, I assure you.”

Some other activities with the surrounding community include annual picnics, interfaith prayer sessions, and other events. Ak noted that anyone is welcome, despite the appearance of the guarded gate, which is present for safety and capacity issues.

In 2018, guards fired what was later called a “warning shot” at an unknown suspected intruder.

Ak said that CRC has engaged in social responsibility projects for years, working with neighboring organizations to make a difference in the community by distributing food to the needy or offering volunteers for any number of efforts.

Currently, the center is closed off from the public, gathering sizes are limited to comply with state and federal guidelines, and many events are online, but that didn’t stop CRC’s students and visitors from reaching out to help the community in the midst of the pandemic.

“Around 400 meals were distributed to the hospitals, 250 meals to the post offices, 1,000 meals to the food pantries, and 1,000 masks were also distributed to several places,” Ak said.

Ak also showcased two photos of Gulen’s rooms at the center to illustrate that despite assumptions he is living in luxury, Gulen’s accommodations are actually more along the lines of those rooms found in the guest homes: comfortable, but small and modest. And despite the fact that he is a world-renowned leader in the Muslim community, Gulen still pays his fair share, Ak said.

“He makes sure to pay rent for both the rooms and everything he uses at the center,” Ak said. “His income is mainly from the publishing royalties of his books.”

Bringing his portion of the presentation to a close, Ak summarized the ideology of CRC by explaining their ideal world, based upon their tenets of education, camaraderie and charity.

“CRC envisions a society in which everybody is respected for who they are, people live in peace, everybody is included, the poor and needy are taken care of, and people of different background(s) can have friendly conversations in peace,” Ak said. “CRC believes in the importance of celebrating the commonalities and respecting differences. CRC also believes in the importance of universal values such as solidarity, peace, human rights, equity, respect, so on and so forth.”

Busra also noted that she looks forward to a future in which further meetings with the community can be held face-to-face to help facilitate a strong and lasting relationship between the center and its neighbors.

“Thank you all again for coming, and everyone else with MCU who has put so much into this, and have a great night,” Busra said, with a guest responding with the term “shalom,” or peace, and a smile.
The post Chestnut Retreat Center offers a look inside their Saylorsburg facility and its mission appeared first on Hizmet News.
Source: Hizmetnews

Erdoğan’s overarching purge is not a road accident

Dr. Ismail Sezgin

The Economist recently published an article entitled “Fethullah Gulen shares blame for Turkey’s plight” about Turkey, Erdoğan, and Gulen, in which it argues “no one helped him [Erdoğan] cripple Turkey’s democracy more than Mr Gulen and his sect [the Hizmet Movement].”

As the co-director of the London-based Centre for Hizmet Studies, and also a part-time Research Assistant at Regents Park College, Oxford University, where I follow all Gülen/Hizmet related publications as part of a project to produce an annotated bibliography on Gülen/Hizmet, this article interests me professionally.

It is heartbreaking to witness Turkey, a country with so much potential, collapsing into authoritarianism. So, I’d personally like to thank the Economist for its concern for Turkey’s democracy and its future. Undoubtedly, the responsibility for the demise of Turkey’s already fragile democracy rests on many shoulders, and the Hizmet Movement is no exception; however, the arguments and assumptions in the article do not portray this responsibility either objectively or fairly.

In citing examples of how Gülen and the Movement helped Erdoğan “cripple Turkey’s democracy”, and how Gülenists played “a big part” in the July 15 coup attempt, the author is convinced that the public officials who were allegedly responsible for the arrests of “thousands of Kurdish activists, army officers, secular types and journalists” and those who took part in the coup attempt, were solely acting on their Gülenist convictions — whether to serve the Movement’s own political agenda, or to obey a direct order from Gülen. Each case cited by the article requires a separate discussion of its own. However, assuming that the existence of a Gülenist conviction is possible, why doesn’t the article apply the same lines of argument to those cases that contradict its arguments?

Firstly, the author ignores how coups have taken place in Turkey in the past. While some participants from the Hizmet Movement said, in the aftermath of the coup attempt, that “Gülenist” people — like others — may have been involved in the coup, it was never a statement of a fact, nor was it based on extensive investigation. It was an attempt simply to entertain the possibility that, given how a coup is usually attempted by an army, it was likely that Gülen supporters — like others — may have been involved in the coup as mere soldiers, not necessarily from their “Gülenist” motivations. They expected, as did many people, including Turkey’s Western allies, that the Turkish government would conduct an effective investigation into the coup attempt and bring those responsible to justice, regardless of their affiliations and motivations. Unfortunately, President Erdoğan accused the Movement of plotting the coup on the very night that the coup was taking place, and the investigation into the coup has turned into the persecution of the alleged members of the Movement, regardless of any actual wrongdoing on their parts, an important detail which I am happy to see that the article also highlights.

Secondly, the author claims that “…there is no doubt that the Gülenists played a big part. At least some of the officers who directed the violence turned out to be graduates of the Gülen system”. It would be nice to see how the article could particularise its conclusion that “the Gülenists played a big part”, and give the names of those “officers who directed the violence”, so that their accounts could be checked and verified. More importantly, however, there are many cases  where army officials, who were later arrested for allegedly being Gülenists, fought against the coup attempt and prevented the mobilisation of army cadets under their command, protected Erdoğan and flew him to Istanbul, clashed with the putschists and were injured. According to the Turkish Armed Forces’ own statement, on the night of the coup, there were 8,651 personnel on the street. 2,890 of them were cadets, which suggests that they were most likely ordered to take it to the street. It is also clear that all the remaining officials were not Gülenists, which was also noted in the article. The government purged almost 15,000 army officials, almost ten thousand of whom did not take part in the coup. This is in addition to the fact that there was no police participation in the coup attempt. 31,000 police officers were later purged by the government. This is particularly important given the general perception of an overwhelmingly Gülenist presence in the police, which the author also seems to believe, saying that “By one estimate, Gülenists held 30% of top jobs in the judiciary and 50% in the police”. If we follow the author’s logic, above, why is the author not convinced that these army officials and police officers might also have acted from their Gülenist convictions when they acted against the coup attempt? If the presence of some allegedly Gülenist army officials in the coup attempt is enough to hold the Movement and Gülen culpable, to some extent, the cases that suggest otherwise should surely be noted as demonstrating the plausibility of their innocence.

Thirdly, by insinuating on the way in which a Hizmet person would only act within their professional capacity, the article essentialises the issue and sees a Gülenist conviction as the sole explanation for the alleged failures or wrongdoings of Gülenist public officials in upholding fundamental human rights, for example, in relation to the Kurdish question. More importantly, he doesn’t recognise the agency of a Gülenist in conducting their profession — both in a good and bad way — but ignores the systematic shortcomings in the protection of fundamental rights and freedoms in Turkey. For example, has there ever been a time in Turkey’s modern history when Kurds’ rights were categorically recognised and their freedoms protected? The answer is “no”. This is not to obfuscate the Movement’s, or a Hizmet person’s, responsibility in any way, but to recognise that the Kurdish question is Turkey’s single most important issue, having implications for almost every aspect of its democracy and the state of its human rights. The presence and absence of a particular person, group or ideology in the state bureaucracy unfortunately has a limited impact on the progress towards Kurds’ rights, not least because Turkish nationalism is deeply ingrained in society, and the Movement is also thus affected. We could, therefore, only speak in relative terms by comparing different periods of Kurdish rights in order to understand whether any particular period is better or worse than another. Otherwise, all we have in the context of the Kurdish question is a big failure, in every sense of the word. As per the article’s argument, if we are also then convinced that the Movement has had a direct impact on how the Kurdish question and the so-called peace process have progressed, the question is how would this period compare to the ‘90s, and more recent years, but, more specifically, has there ever been a policy or law that the AKP government wanted to implement in order to recognise the Kurds’ rights in a meaningful way, but which the Movement chose to oppose?

The Movement could, and should, surely have done much more in relation to the Kurdish issue and the advancement of fundamental rights and freedoms in Turkey. However, seeking a Gülenist conspiracy in every shortcoming or wrongdoing of Turkey’s justice system is unhelpful, since, if we really follow this logic, how do we then explain Turkey’s last seven years, when human rights violations of any kind have become not only possible, but also increasingly regular? We can’t possibly argue that those officials — police officers, judges, prosecutors, etc., — whose decisions and actions cause these human rights’ violations, are all hardcore Islamists and Erdoğan supporters. Should we really rely on these officials’ religious or secular inclinations and social or cultural traits to explain why they act in a particular way? It is clear that this not only hinders the possibility of identifying the underlying issues that affect the wider society, but also dislocates the responsibility of the political actors.

Fourthly, the article, perhaps inadvertently, parrots the Kemalist narrative of “they are everywhere” by exaggerating the Hizmet people’s presence, power and influence in the state bureaucracy, albeit by successfully avoiding the use of the term “infiltration” to describe those Gülenists in the state bureaucracy. This argument exemplifies the pretence behind the ongoing persecution of Hizmet participants by the Turkish government “to restore law and order”, and incriminates Hizmet participants, attributing malevolence to their very existence in the state bureaucracy, regardless of any actual wrong-doings on their part. However, the way in which the allegation of infiltration is formulated, and its historical context, also explain both the ideological and social fault lines in Turkish society, as well as the arbitrary social hierarchies.

The Turkish Republic’s modernisation policies, in its initial years, resulted in ideological and social fault lines and deep social divisions in society due to the reimagining of the newly founded state as a monolithic nation state, in terms of its religious beliefs, ethnicity and language. The new Republic’s secularist and monolithic policies discriminated against linguistic, ethnic and religious minorities, and adamantly punished the public manifestation of identity of any kind that was outside the state’s secular and Turkish nationalist perception of a modern society. The transformative, yet totalitarian, policies of the new Republic created arbitrary social hierarchies in which some were entitled to enjoy more rights at the expense of those from an unfavoured  identity group in the eyes of the state, such as Kurds, Alevis, non-Muslim minorities, or religiously observant and socially mobilised Muslims.

The projection of Turkey in this way as being a modern secular nation state, and the privileged position of certain ideological convictions that arises out of this projection, inadvertently led to the creation of “gatekeepers” in Turkish society. A self-entitlement to the enjoyment of rights and freedoms emerged among those who supported the Republic’s modernisation project and who considered those who belonged to the unfavoured identity groups who are unworthy of holding important positions in the state bureaucracy. This has manifested itself in the enjoyment of fundamental human rights and freedoms, where some were entitled to enjoy more rights than others.

In fact, Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party’s (the AKP) rise to power in 2002, and its subsequent success in elections, is often partly attributed to the ongoing support of those who were alienated by the state and were then mobilised due to the party’s promise to undo the legal and political barriers that the modern Republic’s modernisation project had set for them. Published in the August 6th, 2011 edition, the Economist described the AKP’s rise to power and its increasing popularity thus:

When AK [The Justice and Development Party] won power in 2002 the generals and their allies continued to hound him [Erdoğan]. They allegedly cooked up coup plans, including the bombing of mosques and murder of Christians. With AK becoming ever more popular, prosecutors sought to ban the party on thin charges that it was trying to impose religious rule. Such intrigues only added to Mr Erdogan’s popularity. In June, riding on a wave of sustained economic growth, democratic reforms and mounting global prestige, AK won a third term in government, winning a record 50% of the vote. (Emphasis added)

It is also important to underline that Turkey’s ideological discontent with a Muslim identity was not necessarily related to Islam or Muslimness; rather, it was with religious groups that had practices and an understanding of Muslimness that encouraged participants to become religiously observant and socially mobilised. It is, therefore, not surprising that firstly Fethullah Gülen, and later the Movement, have been perceived as a threat by the Turkish state since the ‘70s, long before the AKP, or any actual presence of Gülenists in the state bureaucracy.

Erdoğan conveniently used this already accumulated suspicion and mistrust against the Movement, firstly to persecute thousands of Hizmet participants, since December, 2013, and then to denounce the Hizmet Movement as a terror organisation in May, 2016, and, finally, to undertake a relentless purge from July 15, 2016, in the aftermath of the coup attempt. It is thus quite astonishing to witness the article lending an unquestioned legitimacy to Erdoğan’s purge by the following:

No one, however, is worse placed to preach about the dangers of Gülenism than Mr Erdogan, whose government was once joined at the hip with the movement. By locking up everyone linked to it, including lawyers, teachers and charity workers, Mr Erdogan has ditched the rule of law in favour of a vendetta. He has not helped his case by accusing nearly all of his other opponents of treason or terror.

The article appears to be so convinced of the regime’s legitimacy, if not of the necessity of a Gülenist purge, that it treats Erdoğan’s overarching purge as if it were a road accident and does not entertain the possibility that this was perhaps Erdoğan’s case all along. He has ditched the rule of law in favour of a vendetta because this was the only way to persecute Gülenists. Otherwise, how could you punish someone in the absence of an actual crime being committed, which is, by and large, the case in the Gulenist purge?

Some will, perhaps, think that I am being melodramatic and am exaggerating the impact of the Gülenist purge. If so, consider the following quotation in April, 2013, from the then AKP Istanbul Provincial Organisation’s Chairman, Aziz Babuşçu, and compare his depiction of the AKP’s new Turkey at the time with today’s Turkey, in order to see if his description has proved to be accurate:

Those who were partners with us in one way or another during our ten-year period of government will not be partners with us during the next ten years. The future is a period of construction. The construction period will not be to their liking. Therefore, those partners will not be with us. Those who walked together with us yesterday in one way or the other, tomorrow will be partners with the forces that are against us. Because the future that will be constructed, and the Turkey that will be built, will not be a future and a period which they will accept.[1]

Erdoğan has successfully operationalised “the dangers of Gülenism” narrative and has, step by step, realised his vision of a new Turkey with the help of those who have inadvertently or willingly subscribed to his narrative. The purge of the Hizmet Movement is what the Kurdish question was to Kemalism, a necessary tool with which to construct a new national identity, a tool to silence those who question it, and to design a social and political system that will foster it. Unfortunately, Turkey has no chance of going back, even to its fragile and dysfunctional democracy, without this narrative being completely rejected.

Dr Ismail Mesut Sezgin, born and raised in Istanbul, Turkey was awarded his PhD at Leeds Beckett University on the subject of Moral Responsibility in Contemporary Islam. He is a research assistant in Religion and Society, Regent’s Park College, Oxford and a post-doctoral researcher at the Centre for Governance, Leadership and Global Responsibility at Leeds Business School. Dr Sezgin’s research expertise and interests in relation to political Islam, extremism, ethics and religious movements (the Hizmet Movement in particular) have led to him speaking at conferences internationally and offering comment and interviews on various media platforms, including the BBC’s Hardtalk.

[1] Özbudun, E. (2014), ‘AKP at the Crossroads: Erdoğan’s Majoritarian Drift’, South European Society and Politics 19 (2), 155-167.
The post Erdoğan’s overarching purge is not a road accident appeared first on Hizmet News.
Source: Hizmetnews

Is Gulen the scapegoat of Ankara crisis?

Felix Kaiza

In the language of the learned brothers, now the world knows something beyond any reasonable doubt. The fall of the Berlin Wall did not mean the end of the Cold War; just as the hair-split and almost insignificant phonetic difference between wall and war still makes the whole big difference on the global ground.

Three decades on, West and East bloc countries are on each other’s neck more than any time during the hot Cold War period. Relations between China and the US stand testimony to this. As I was writing this piece, the US President Trump was reported as amassing troops targeting Russia — all being done under the so-called post-Cold War umbrella.

Turned in the direction of the Turkish state of affairs what does one see? The people and country’s economy stand very negatively impacted. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lays the blame essentially on the orchestrated failed July 2016 coup attempt, which he places squarely on the brains and shoulders of Muslim Cleric Fethullah Gulen living in US exile and his Hizmet (service) movement.

Turkish history chronicles hold a period of very close ties between Gulen and Erdogan. The two were so close that one would be right to state that Erdogan took hold of the Turkish power reigns because of Gulen backing. But an argument emanating from some quarters at this point in time that Gulen is responsible for what is currently afflicting Turkey and its people, is rendered incorrect.   

A critical mind would instead look into and establish the point at which Erdogan and Gulen parted with each of them assuming the same charge and repelling to the present day, if chemistry could be overstretched to cover politics practices as well.  

In his book titled “Fethullah Gulen: A Life of Hizmet”  and sub-titled “Why a Muslim Scholar in Pennsylvania Matters to the World”, Prof. Jon Pahl points to five peace-building findings associated with Gulen. These are learning literacy, non-violent practice of Islam, engaged empathy, principled pluralism and social enterprise – all targeting to “live well and do good.”

Said Nursi professed basically three enemies of Turkey as being ignorance, poverty and disunity. Along these lines, the Hizmet (Gulen’s) Movement spirit became one of bridging faith and science through engaged empathy, discussing how the world can be made of nations with homes enlightened and prosperous as schools and schools as warm as homes besides today’s world state of generating more heat than light leading to all sorts of fatal conflicts as dialogue and consultation enter the society’s list of lost items. The family becomes as a sacred school like a mosque.

The result is what sociologists view as social bonding capital. Empathy-driven education, business and health social enterprises come on board to establish a new power balance of justice, love, respect and equality among people.

It is here that those in political power – those with dictatorial tendencies in particular– don’t trust whoever tries to mould a cohesive and disciplined community through education, mass media and financial networks.  

One Tanzanian Sheikh Ismail Mohammed Salim, founding chairman of the Ishik Education and Medical Foundation that works on the Gulen principles, had time to caution world leaders against demonizing people the like of Gulen “who stand for peace and common good because at the end of time, truth shall prevail.”

The point of truth is virtually nigh. Four years after the coup, whose real perpetrators remain a puzzle, the world is told nearly 600,000 people, most of them suspected Gulenists, have been investigated. About 100,000 have been arrested, some of them for having an account at a bank associated with Gulen.

Former PrimeMinister Binali Yıldırım said: “… July 15 was a project I did not like at all.”  Why? Purge lists were prepared in advance and to be affected immediately after the attempt. About 3,000 judges and prosecutors had been earmarked for arrest.  In the absence of ‘anticipated’ criminal evidence, 2,745 ended up being dismissed any way.

After a coup he was not aware of, one Rear Admiral and top officer at the NATO training command in Norfolk was, two weeks after, charged with taking part in it and dismissed, ending up as an asylum seeker in the US.   

Figures released by Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar put the number of servicemen dismissed since the coup at 20,077.  In the echoes of the fourth-year commemoration activities, at least 41 people, many of them soldiers, were detained and warrants issued for more than 25 others. More than 150,000 public employees have been suspended or sacked as part of the Turkish government’s global crackdown on the Hizmet group.

Turkey democracy, according to one professor, “is moving in the other direction now. It looks like freedoms are being curtailed while the ruling party protects its own interest at the expense of others…”  Another professor says: “My experience with the Hizmet Movement has been that it is committed to the most idealistic notions of dialogue, education and social justice and not at all really political in its orientation… When leaders get themselves into difficulty, they might look for a scapegoat. They might look for someone to blame. And this is very unfortunate.

Another opinion argues, “the Hizmet Movement is not interested in attaining power; it is not interested in political power in Turkey or elsewhere in the world, but it wants to adhere to a certain pro-democratic, pro-liberty and freedom agenda so that those who are elected to political power not only have a responsibility to provide economic development and to provide education to their people but, at the same time, are held to the highest ethical standards of conduct.

The above opinions point to the Gulen-Erdogan departure line, which has had effects on the Turkish soil and spilling over to other countries, where the Hizmet Movement has extended its service spirit. It is only unfortunate that the government has taken measures even to curtail the movement’s presence in those countries, Africa and Asia in particular.  

Clearly put, Gulen and Erdogan repelled after the unearthing of the 2013 grand corruption scandal traceable to the presidency, family members and close associates. This was the start of the purges which were accelerated after the coup because the list was there already in advance. And it is ever growing.

Turkey is where it is today, not because of Gulen and the Hizmet Movement but rather as the product of a change of heart in the current government leadership, flushing good governance and tolerance components from the country’s management affairs running systems. Solution to the Ankara crisis can only be found through establishing its root cause rather than finding a scapegoat. The Berlin Wall is indeed no more; but the Cold War on the ground remains hotter than as ever!  It’s far from over.    
The post Is Gulen the scapegoat of Ankara crisis? appeared first on Hizmet News.
Source: Hizmetnews