December 11, 2014

Journalists and Writers Foundation's statement on recent developments

The developments of the last year have made it crystal clear that the government is exerting great efforts to change the agenda that is unfavorable to it and doing everything to achieve this. In this framework, references are made to a non-existent mosque in Cuba as if it were already constructed, and the plan to teach the old script used by our ancestors to students is marketed as a life-and-death matter to set the agenda in an artificial manner. Likewise, police operations are conducted with much fanfare at midnight to take innocent people into custody without any evidence, giving the impression that these moves seek to distract public attention or use them as a screen.

The government-controlled media outlets have been hurling at bizarre accusations at the Hizmet movement every day while the government fails to come up with any evidence that can convince courts about those charges although it has vast public resources at its disposal.

Whenever a public debate is sparked on the ruling Justice and Development Party's unlawful practices and corrupt practices, AKP officials rush to voice slanders about the Hizmet movement that are even more illogical and far-fetched than the previous ones.

"The Hizmet movement is cooperating with the PKK [Kurdistan Workers' Party]," Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu recently said, to add another to this set of slanders. A statesman's responsibility entails that in the face of such a scandalous claim, legal mechanisms must be swiftly set in motion to investigate into that claim instead of making a civil society organization the target of potential attacks from the masses. Apparently, even Mr. Prime Minister opts for being part of this nasty plan and playing wag the dog to make the public get occupied with unfounded claims although he does not have any information or document to substantiate his claim.

To say that the Hizmet movement is cooperating with the PKK is nothing but to distort the truth.

Given the fact that the police officers who had conducted operations against the Kurdish Communities Union (KCK) were arrested with the government's will and upon the judiciary's instructions and with an inconceivable, nondescript "parallel structure" accusation, any suggestion that the Hizmet movement is cooperating with the PKK is ludicrous. When the Oslo talks --held in Oslo between the Turkish government officials and PKK leaders to broker peace-- were leaked to the media, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who was Prime Minister at that time, had argued that it was the PKK which leaked the talks. However, Erdoğan chose to accuse the Hizmet movement of leaking the talks in the wake of the graft and bribery operation of December 17, 2013.

The pro-government media outlets are tossing around the lie, "The Hizmet movement is sabotaging peace by undermining the Settlement Process," and, at the same time, they send the message, "The Hizmet movement is collaborating with the PKK," to voters with nationalist sentiments, in complete disregard for ethic rules.

Concerning the talks it has been conducting with the PKK, the government has realized that it would face insurmountable problems with the PKK supporters if it fails to keep its promises to the PKK and with the rest of the country if it keeps those promises. For this reason, in an effort to dodge political and legal responsibilities, it has resorted to the same "parallel structure" pretext.

As ordinary citizens are required to pass the Public Personnel Selection Examination (KPSS) in order to be employed as public servants, the relatives of senior AKP executives are undeservingly appointed to various position at public institutions, and certain government officials and their sons have inexplicable wealth, it is impossible for the government to hinder any talk of corruption, as confessed by Prime Minister's Chief Adviser Etyen Mahçupyan, Hayrettin Karaman and Ahmet Taşgetiren.

It is interesting to note that the government refrains from resorting to legal actions to refute the corruption and bribery allegations which became public with the images, audio recordings, evidence and even confessions since December 17, 2013, but tries to market them as an attempted coup by the Hizmet movement.

The ruling party and pro-government media outlets had maintained that the police officers had implanted the incriminating safes at the apartment of the son of former Interior Minister Muammer Güler and they had even claimed that they have video recordings showing how police officers did this --in the same way Erdoğan had claimed that a headscarved woman, along with her baby, was violently attacked by a group of around 80 protesters at the Kabataş ferry station in İstanbul in June 2013 at the height of the Gezi Park protests, and that there was a video footage of the incident.

However, testifying last week at the parliamentary Corruption Investigation Commission, Muammer Güler confessed that the safes belonged to his son and his son was paid a monthly salary of $30,000 for his consultancy services to Iranian businessman Reza Zarrab, a key suspect in the December 17 graft probe.

Former Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan had claimed he had paid the tax on his infamously expensive watch; however, then it was later revealed that the tax on the watch was paid by Zarrab.

Former EU Affairs Minister Egemen Bağış had been unable to deny that he had been given several boxes of bribery, but had opted to refer to them as gifts. Erdoğan Bayraktar, another former minister, admitted that the audio recordings were not fake.

Report by the Council of Forensic Medicine

Another proof that allegations of an attempted coup against the government are baseless is that a Council of Forensic Medicine (ATK) report found the incriminating audio recordings were authentic. Despite this fact, the police officers who performed their duties by investigating into corruption claims were sent to jail with coup charges.

Avalanche of Lies and Slanders

Likewise, in his constituency where secular sentiments are dominant, AKP Aydın Deputy Ali Gültekin Kılınç alleged that the Hizmet movement will establish an Islamic state. In this context, a pro-government English language daily ran the headline "The Hizmet movement will establish an Islamic state," with the intention of manipulating the international public opinion. Oddly enough, the Turkish version of the same paper tried to stigmatize the Hizmet movement in the eyes of conservative and nationalist groups by claiming that the Hizmet movement is being controlled by the CIA and Mossad. In its past, Turkey has never witnessed such a frenzy of fabricating different lies depending on time and place.

In this context, the prep schools which provide auxiliary training services to hundreds of thousands of students were labeled as centers of treason; the Hizmet movement, which has been promoting peaceful coexistence for 50 years, was accused of masterminding the nefarious assassination of Armenian-Turkish journalist Hrant Dink; the public resources are used to sink certain businessmen who are members of the Turkish Confederation of Businessmen and Industrialists (TUSKON); there were efforts to confiscate and sink Bank Asya in breach of the Constitution; the relief and humanitarian activities of the charitable organization Kimse Yok Mu? (Is Anybody There?) were obstructed; and President Erdoğan slanderously told African leaders that the Turkish schools run by the Hizmet movement in their countries are dens of agents. This is only a small subset of the unlawful and unfair attacks practices targeting the Hizmet movement.

These practices have failed to change the agenda regarding corruption, bribery, growing authoritarianism and arbitrariness in governance or undermine the Hizmet movement's determination and decisive stance in the face of injustices done to it.

It appears that the ruling party will continue to launch operations for engineering public perceptions instead of resorting to legal actions and ensuring transparent judicial processes for exonerating from corruption charges.

It is well known to the public that inconceivable slanders, merciless perception engineering campaigns, or arresting of hundreds of thousands of people will not be sufficient to cover up cases of bribery and corrupt practices which are confessed and condemned even by certain AKP members or supporters.

A country lacking rule of law, judicial independence, human rights, transparency, accountability and checks and balances can hardly be defined as a democracy.

To the attention of the public, respectfully.

Published on Journalists and Writers Foundation, 11 December 2014, Thurday