Abdülbaki Erdoğmuş, spokesman for the Civil Policy Platform, has described the developments following a Dec. 17, 2013 anti-corruption operation in Turkey as “really a coup by the AK Party [Justice and Development Party] government” and pointed out that the effects of the unjust action taken by the government against the faith-based Hizmet movement are more severe than those of the aftermath of the Feb. 28, 1997 postmodern coup process.
Speaking to Today's Zaman, Erdoğmuş said that oppressing a voluntary movement that embraces the ideals of interfaith dialogue, tolerance and peaceful coexistence with a special emphasis on education may cause irreparable damage to the peace that we are badly in need of, based on the deepening threats posed by chaos in neighboring Iraq and Syria.
“The operations against the Hizmet movement are not innocent. It is quite strange to try to suppress a movement that rejects all types of violence committed against innocent civilians just at a time when the country needs it [social peace] most,” Erdoğmuş noted.
Although he acknowledges that the Hizmet movement may have committed some transgressions, Erdoğmuş finds it very wrong to give the government an unlimited ability to deal with the movement however it sees fit.
“Hizmet should have been allowed to engage in self-criticism regarding the problems it faced. The interference of the government is unacceptable. Waging psychological warfare against the Hizmet movement by trying to present it as an illegal organization is a setup,” he said.
Erdoğmuş added that despite the reports of corruption in parts of the government, the number of arrests and prosecutions is low and convictions remain rare; impunity continues to be a problem. “There is a small oligarchic group around Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. This group built a castle behind closed doors, and naturally, we cannot see what's going on inside. Even constructive criticism is being considered a betrayal by the government. They are basically trying to impose a sense of betrayal on the public,” Erdoğmuş said.
Emphasizing the high degree of pressure on the media and the government's intolerance of opposition and limitations on individual freedoms, Erdoğmuş stated that the AK Party had turned toward authoritarianism and away from the goal of joining the European Union.
"The desire of Turkish policymakers for the country to be a big player in the Middle East and the dream of returning to Ottoman borders are baseless and unrealistic. And Erdoğan knows this, too. He also knows that these kinds of initiatives can only happen under an authoritarian system. Erdoğan tried this and Turkey has lost a lot. They are still trying to remove all of the obstacles to Erdoğan's leadership. The Hizmet movement is one of those obstacles. That is why the rule of law in Turkey has been suspended -- in the cause of eradicating the movement," Erdoğmuş added.
When asked how the AK Party government managed to preserve public support despite the corruption allegations, Erdoğmuş said that the nation gave them great credit in protest of coups such as Feb. 28 process. “The AK Party still makes use of the legacies of those days. But we now face an Islamic perception that understands ‘the other.' We turned into a society that is drowning in rituals rather than living up to Islamic principles,” Erdoğmuş said.
A coalition government led by a now-defunct conservative party was forced to step down by the military on Feb. 28, 1997.
Published on Sunday's Zaman, 13 July 2014, Sunday