July 17, 2014

3 reasons why the government cannot finish off the Hizmet movement

Oğuzhan Tekin

Turkey has been passing through a kind of interim regime under the reign of the Justice and Development (AK Party) government since the Dec. 17 corruption and bribery operations.

The government's smear campaign against the Hizmet movement continues, increasingly using any kind of state apparatus with extralegal orders. But there are three reasons this global civil movement cannot be done away with: 1) Its financially independence from state resources, 2) Its well-educated human resources -- members, volunteers and supporters, 3) Its know-how and international networks.

The government prepares its action plans by using public force, including the state intelligence agency, police force and the judiciary -- which has been totally taken under control -- along with its media block.

The government has been carrying out a huge media campaign to discredit the movement in the eyes of society. The pro-AK Party media has been publishing fabricated news regarding the Hizmet movement, Hizmet-affiliated institutions and Fethullah Gülen. Then the pro-AK Party prosecutors have appealed these as notifications and collected allegations from newspapers for a court case against the movement.

Hundreds of court cases were opened to correct the fabricated news they published. Thus, the pro-AK Party media has published hundreds of corrections that courts ordered them to make about fabricated news. But they are ruthless, republishing the corrected news again and again. Because it's primary concern is to discredit the perception and image of the movement in society. For them, the court orders are meaningless. These penalties are being paid back. As an example, solely in April and May, seven pro-AK Party dailies headlined 217 pieces of news discrediting the movement, Hizmet-affiliated institutions and Gülen.

The government uses economic instruments to close down movement-affiliated companies or cause them to go bankrupt, or to exact high tax penalties on businesspeople who support the movement financially.

A friend of mine told me that five of his companies were under inspection by inspectors from the Finance Ministry last week. He said his public and municipal contracts were canceled because he is sympathetic to the movement and supports it. Millions of dollars in fines are being issued to these businesspeople. On July 9, the Taraf daily published a story saying that under the coordination of the interior minister, a working group was designed to prolife businesspeople that support the movement financially. The group profiled 100,000 businesspeople so that they could inspect and fine them for possibly supporting the Hizmet movement. So-called routine inspections are being done to force them into bankruptcy and finally take them over. The right to exist and work of the group has not been denied so far.

In different cities, hundreds of Hizmet-affiliated schools, dorms and construction sites were sealed off. If their land was rented from government agencies or AK Party municipalities, their contracts were canceled. Even last week, the construction of a new campus for Fatih College that was almost complete was stopped and the area was rezoned to be preserved for green space due to a resolution by the İstanbul Metropolitan Municipality.

The movement is alone in defending itself against lawlessness, because any supportive stance for the movement is penalized through a media discrediting campaign, firing or billing. It takes brave hearts to stand with it these days.

The movement sympathizers and supporters are not scared of the government's actions and bills. Although there is a huge campaign to destroy, discredit, and intimidate the movement, their confidence on principles of the Movements is consolidated. They try to continue their activities by reorganizing their projects by multiplying their numbers.

The movement is financially independent from state resources and is self-financed through businesses that it runs and businesspeople who support its activities. The government's attacks against Hizmet have caused some damage, but not permanently. This also makes the government nervous. Hence, you cannot annihilate a movement legally or illegally if it is financially independent of your resources.

By the way, only in dictatorships are financially independent civil societies perceived to be a threat to the state and exterminated.

Secondly, the movement has many well-educated volunteers, implementers and supporters. They have international experiences, qualified diplomas, knowledge of foreign languages as well as an international culture of living together. Pressure of the governmental cannot eliminate these qualities.

Lastly, the movement members and supporters are skilled and know how to serve humanity; they know how to open and build schools, how to construct dialogue bridges, how to connect international networks and how to encourage world peace. This knowledge cannot be erased.

Success in any sector needs three crucial elements: capital, human resources and know-how. The movement has capitalized on all of that for more than four decades. Its worldwide success comes from the integration of these three things, and they cannot be done away with. Even if one sympathizer remains, s/he will make sure to reconstruct everything from the very beginning.

Published on Today's Zaman, 17 July 2014, Thursday