October 30, 2014

'Red Book' should not be used as a threat, analysts say

Former members of the National Security Council (MGK) have warned that the “Red Book,” a national security document in which major threats against the nation are enumerated, should not be used as a tool for threats, but expressed concern that the government is possibly used it in just such a way.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan recently signaled that the faith-based Hizmet movement might be declared a terrorist group in the "National Security Strategy Concept Paper," which is often referred to as the “Red Book.”

“In my opinion, [the government] will use this as a tool to threaten [the public] ahead of the [upcoming] general elections,” Sadettin Tantan, a former interior minister, told Today's Zaman. “He [Erdoğan] will seek to reach an agreement with Hizmet ahead of the elections in 2015 by putting pressure on the public, but especially on Hizmet,” Tantan maintained.

Following two graft probes that went public in December of last year, part of which led to four Cabinet ministers leaving their posts, Erdoğan accused the Hizmet movement, which is inspired by respected Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, of being behind the probes. Describing the corruption probes as a plot against the government, Erdoğan also claimed Hizmet was part of an international plot to topple the government.

Erdoğan's argument reveals that the government may attempt to eliminate all dissident groups by including them in the "Red Book" as a serious threat to national security. The "Red Book" is also known as being the “secret constitution” of the country.

During a rally in mid-October, Erdoğan signaled that he would bring up Hizmet as an issue at an MGK meeting at the end of the month and that Hizmet would be included in the "Red Book" as a national domestic threat. "My personal agenda at this month's MGK meeting [set for Oct. 30] is to revise the National Security Strategy Concept Paper in terms of the [domestic] elements that pose a threat to our country," Erdoğan said.

According to Tantan, who served as minister of interior between 1999 and 2001, it would not make much difference if the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) were to change the "Red Book," as the AK Party has negotiated with a terrorist organization before, despite the fact that it appeared in the "Red Book" as a national security threat. Noting that the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) was included in the "Red Book" as a national security threat in 2006, Tantan said: “Look at what happened in 2006. The [AK Party] government at the time was in talks with the PKK. Yet the PKK appeared as a domestic threat in the National Security Strategy Concept Paper,” Tantan underlined, noting that the government has a habit of violating the law.

The government launched a settlement process two years ago with the PKK, which is recognized as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the US and the EU, to resolve the country's Kurdish issue and terrorism problem.

Yaşar Yakış, a former minister of foreign affairs for the AK Party, referred to the claim that Hizmet may be labeled a terrorist organization, underlining that no one can be declared guilty until they are proven to have committed a crime.

In a statement to Today's Zaman, Yakış said: “It is not right that people are accused of being guilty or innocent before a court trial [to that end] is concluded. The presumption of innocence, one of the fundamental principles of the law, stipulates that the accused should be considered innocent until proven otherwise. If there is a practice [in place concerning the Hizmet movement] that violates this principle, I am against that practice. If [the government] is trying to make innocent people look like a terrorist organization, it should be proven with convincing evidence that they have been involved in armed acts or that they are determined to resort to [using] weapons in their acts.”

The book was last revised in 2010 after the expression “fundamentalism” was excluded from the critical document for the first time in the history of the Turkish Republic. For many years, the term has been used as a tool by the military authorities to smear and put pressure on religious parts of society, as seen when a coalition government led by a now-defunct conservative party was forced to step down by the military on Feb. 28, 1997, an event that has since come to be known as a "postmodern coup."

Other than the president and prime minister, deputy prime ministers, the interior minister, the foreign minister, the justice minister and the defense minister as well as the chief of General Staff and the commanders-in-chief of the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) take part in the bi-monthly MGK meetings. Concepts such as fundamentalism, ultra-nationalism, communism and terrorism were frequently put in the "Red Book" from time to time, based on changes in the country's threat perception.

The document, after defining the scope and priority of the threat, details methods of fighting and eliminating the threat.

Published on Today's Zaman, 29 October 2014, Wednesday