August 17, 2014

Report: Religious communities wiretapped by AK Party government

The ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government reportedly ordered the wiretapping of all religious groups in Turkey: the İsmailağa community led by Mahmut Ustaosmanoğlu, the Süleymancılar community led by Süleyman Hilmi Tunahan, the Nur movement, the Nakşi movement, and the Kadiri movement, as well as the Hizmet movement, a faith-based civil society initiative intensely disliked by President-elect Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

According to a report in the Taraf daily on Sunday, the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) and the National Police Department Intelligence Unit may have jointly been illegally collecting data about religious communities and profiling them on orders from the AK Party. In 2009, former National Police Department Intelligence Bureau Chief Hüseyin Namal, who was assigned to the post to replace Ramazan Akyürek, reportedly sent an official document to the police departments of the 81 provinces demanding that the departments provide detailed intelligence to the government regarding the religious communities in their provinces.

In the document, religious communities were accused of destroying society and Turkish family structure through their corrupting effects. The confidential document also included detailed information about the steps to be taken against the communities, as well as comments on the psychological aspects of an operation against the movements. The communities were also described as a threat to the country's national security because they have been improving their institutional structures across the county, according to the Taraf report.

The report has prompted much discussion, because for the first time in the history of Turkey a conservative party has apparently placed religious communities on the list of its targets. Although religious communities have been targeted by juntas and leftist parties in Turkey in the past, this time it seems that a conservative party ordered a campaign of slander and defamation using extraordinary methods to weaken religious communities, and the Hizmet movement, in particular.

The Taraf daily also previously reported on a secret national security document the AK Party government created for a planned crackdown on the Hizmet movement. On Nov. 28, 2013, the daily published a document prepared by the National Security Council (MGK) on Aug. 25, 2004, that suggested the government implement a series of measures to curb the activities of the Hizmet movement. It also advised the government to adopt legal measures that would impose harsh penalties on Hizmet-affiliated institutions.

The two-page document was signed by Erdoğan, then-Foreign Minister Abdullah Gül, then-President Ahmet Necdet Sezer, then-Chief of General Staff Gen. Hilmi Özkök, then-Land Forces Commander Aytaç Yalman, then-Naval Forces Commander Adm. Özden Örnek, then-Air Forces Commander Gen. İbrahim Fırtına and Gen. Şener Eruygur.

The document, MGK Decision No. 481, asked the government to develop an action plan to pursue the MGK's recommendations and instructed the Prime Ministry Implementation and Monitoring Coordination Council (BUTKK) to coordinate the ministries and monitor whether the steps were implemented. The newspaper based its report on information from the second round of recent major government corruption investigations that became public on Dec. 25, 2013, only to be immediately suspended by the government.

Published on Sunday's Zaman, 17 August 2014, Sunday